Beloit College and the City of Beloit came together for a Freedom March on Saturday, Oct.1.
In the spirit of the civil rights legends of the ‘60s, Beloit came together on a rainy Saturday morning for the inaugural Beloit College and Community Freedom March. At a brisk 9:45 a.m., students, organization members, community leaders and members all assembled at Riverside Park. The event, which has been in planning for the better part of a year, was meant as a community and college binding experience, in an effort to honor the memory of Martin Luther King Jr., the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement, as well as emphasize the right and responsibility we have as citizens to vote.
Speeches were given at the park, to hype up the trek to Beloit Memorial High School. Cecil Youngblood, director of the Office for Inclusive Living and Learning, and Theodore “Teddy” Williams IV’18, opened up the ceremony, acknowledging the diverse groups in attendance. Fraternities and sororities from the college showed up to show support, as did the Black Student Union and Students for Inclusive Campus. Representatives from the Beloit High School District, community churches, and the local veteran’s group also turned out for this march. Unity, equity, and peace were the main themes of the event; accented by urges from community leaders to utilize our right to vote.
Reverend Michael Ramsdail, of Lighthouse Fellowship Church, led an opening prayer declaring powerfully, “We are all woven together in a single garment of destiny.”
State Representative Mark Spreitzer, an alumnus of Beloit, spoke to the power of unity insisting, “No matter who you’re voting for we must come together as one country made stronger by diversity.”
The Reverend of Parroquia San Jose, Dr. Neddy Astudillo, continued the theme of togetherness, specifically addressing immigrants, who compose 70 percent of Beloit’s population. She called the community to care for its brothers and sisters, to tend to the general wellbeing as a “moral imperative.”
Rallied together by the community gospel choir and led by student organizers, the crowd marched despite the rain, through Riverside Park, and across the Rock River Bridge to Beloit Memorial High School. Chants rang out: “Unity, equity, peace. Beloit will stand as one” and “Get woke, stay woke.”
Finally, the group reassembled in the Barkin Arena of the high school. There, students gave impassioned speeches to the pumped crowd. The bleachers roiled with stomping after each address. Students and community members alike rose to their feet with applause. Bill Conover, Beloit College’s spiritual life director, closed the program in a prayer of unification and perseverance. Those not already registered to vote were encouraged to do so at tables set up in the gym.
“I thought it was very uplifting,” says Hana Hassanpourgol’20, after the event. Her friend, Olivia Ruffins‘20, agreed. “I feel like there’s a lot of division between the college and the community…not a lot of college students get out into the community, so this was a good activity.”
Cecil also believed that the event would be a great way to unite the college with the surrounding city. “[We’ve] wanted to address this idea of Beloit College being in this bubble. I’ve been hearing that forever, and the community feels that way too. So we said let’s take this opportunity around something important. Let’s stop talking about ‘the bubble;’ let’s break it.”
The March has certainly taken great steps towards that goal. “Events like this make Beloit a much safer community and much more inclusive. I’m really happy to be here and really proud and thankful for everyone who came to put it on,” says Carly Gregerman‘19.
Donald Harris, academic senior and event organizer, acknowledged the great turnout as a “build up” to future years’ attendance. “Hopefully it’s an annual thing; from this turnout I could certainly see it happening against next year.”
"We heard a lot today about unity, equity, and peace,” says Donald.“Our message got across loud and clear: Beloit will stand as one.”
For more information on voting in Beloit, visit the City Clerk’s website.