The march marked the first major collaboration between students at N.C. State and UNC students in the Black Congress and Black Student Movement. Participants marched to the state legislature building in Raleigh for a series of speeches and public comments.
“I feel like the educational system and the U.S. system have misconstrued Martin Luther King (Jr.)’s legacy and what he has stood for,” said sophomore Mistyre Bonds, a member of the UNC Black Congress.
“This is a chance to not only reclaim his memory and what he stood for, but also to show him, and his family and his legacy, that we’re still standing for it and still fighting for the things that he wanted when he was alive.”
Tre Shockley, president of UNC’s Black Student Movement, said he appreciated the various groups’ collaboration.
“We all think something needs to be done, and there’s more power in numbers — and that’s all linked up together,” he said.
The participants aimed to embrace King as a revolutionary fighting for black liberation, not just as a pastor and activist, said sophomore Dominque Brodie, a member of the UNC Black Congress’ coordinating committee.
“People like to highlight that he was a pastor and an activist and that he liked to give speeches and stuff like that,” Brodie said. “But they don’t like to highlight the fact that he was revolutionary and actively fighting against systems of white supremacy.”
Achaia Dent, a sophomore at N.C. State who organized a die-in on the campus, spoke in front of the legislative building. She said she wrote her speech embracing an open mind and heart, and she was inspired by King’s famous “I have a dream” speech.
“This is a comment to anyone who’s willing to listen, and it just makes it even better that this is a place of power.”
UNC sophomore Jerome Simpson, an organizer of the march, kicked off the event by emphasizing the importance of learning and interacting with others in your community and state.
“It’s OK to be ignorant, but it’s not OK to remain ignorant,” he said to the crowd. “That’s why we’re here today. We’re here today to learn about issues.”
Several speakers recognized the importance of creating an environment inclusive of all races and genders.
“I’m not someone who’s necessarily going to lose rights under Donald Trump’s presidency, but I think it’s important to show support for people that are,” said Jillian Tate, a sophomore at N.C. State.
“Even if it doesn’t affect you, you still have to stand up for those people and use the privilege that you do have to do that.”
In speeches following the march, N.C. State senior Amani Manning commented on the state of higher education in North Carolina and its effect on his experience.
“When our public education is so bent on white-washing history, glorifying racists, bigots and any other old dead white man, the behavior becomes normalized ... The privatization of higher education directly impacts my life,” he said.
Ben St. Gerard, a first-year MBA student at UNC, said he hopes the University demonstrates its commitment to maintaining an inclusive and ethical community.
“When issues are in the news, when you have a president-elect that’s decidedly divisive and ethnocentric and there’s no response from the University, that’s a red flag,” he said.
“If there’s no response from the University, there’s an implicit message from that.”
Brodie said he often returns to the thought that fighting for equality isn’t easy.
“One thing I’ve said before is that injustice, inequality isn’t convenient, so our fight for justice, our fight for equality shouldn’t be convenient,” he said.