The Black Students’ Union (BSU) is organizing a road trip to Washington D.C. during the weekend of Oct. 9 to attend the Million Man March, a peaceful gathering that addresses social issues relevant to minorities in the United States.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the Million Man March was first held in 1995 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The organizer of the march, Louis Farrakhan, first called on black men to renew their commitments to their families and communities.

“The first march in 1995, it really was specifically for black people,” BSU Educational and Political Chair Caryl English said. “Louis Farrakhan wanted to call black men out to hold them accountable for many different things […] It was for black improvement.”

The march has occurred once every 10 years since 1995, and the topics have diverged from issues that center on the black community to encompass a wide spectrum of minority issues such as illegal immigration, gentrification and social injustice.

BSU Community Outreach Chair Stephaun Ward noted that every organization that he has participated in on campus expressed that they are experiencing the same social problems.

This year will be the third time that BSU is leading a group of students to participate in the march—the group has attended each march since its inception. The goal is essentially to unite all the students around the campus in advocating for social change. Through this historic trip, they expect to gain a better understanding of the needs of underrepresented minorities and first generation college students. Ward noted that departments and clubs on campus are aware the BSU trip is a tradition, and that the Students’ Association (SA) and other groups were eager to help promote the trip.

BSU Vice President of and junior Simone Johnson expressed her enthusiasm for fighting for changes for minorities.

“[…] The times haven’t changed. So we’re still fighting against police brutality and we’re still fighting against systematic racism.” Johnson said. “The reason why the march still happens and the reason why BSU still backs it is because the change hasn’t really happened. So, the march is a symbol of change and that’s why we’re bringing everyone together, to fight for change.”

All three members recognized the difficulties that the government and citizens face in combating systemic racism. However, they said they expect that there will be more understanding of the hardships faced by the minority groups and that more people will be motivated by the march to implement changes in the future, which is eventually another goal for this trip.

When asked about what issues on campus or in the local community concerned the BSU the most, Johnson talked of a more influential role of the University in the local community.

“[The University] should have more of an influence in the community,” English said. “There’s people here in the community […] they can hear the Rush Rhees bells, and they’re like ‘Oh, we know that university’s over there,’ but to them it’s like an us and them thing, because they don’t see the University having a presence in their community.”

“There’s a plethora of people from the community that are going down in buses and so forth [to the March],” Ward added. “We are University of Rochester students, and we are here for the same reason that you’re here; you’re part of us; we’re all one. […] That’s another goal of the March; it brings people together.”

BSU will be holding a screening and discussion of “Get On The Bus” on Saturday, Oct. 3, from 4 to 6 p.m. in Douglass Leadership House. The movie details the first Million Man March in 1995. They also plan on hosting a number of workshops to inform the UR community about issues discussed at the Million Man March. Additionally, they will present video clips from this year’s event.

“The bus is open to everybody,” English said. “If you’re down for the cause, come out—support.”

Wang is a member of the class of 2017



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