Unity Walk to remember King, sacrifices for civil rights

A group of Wichita State students will silently walk from the south entrance of the Rhatigan Student Center to the north entrance on campus starting at 5 p.m. tonight.

It’s a Unity Walk honoring Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who fought for civil rights of African Americans in the 1950s and 60s. The Unity Walk is sponsored by WSU’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

ODI also cosponsored a worship service for King Monday at the Hughes Metropolitan Complex.

Danielle Johnson, program coordinator for ODI, said the Unity Walk, in its seventh year, is the first walk that will be silent.

“In the past, we have done some singing and dancing and some marching music and things like that, but we want to kind of reflect on (what went on) in 2014, so we’ll actually be walking in silence,” Johnson said.

After the walk, participants will head to Room 142 of the RSC for hot chocolate and to hear excerpts from the Black Student Union — which partnered with ODI — about King’s influence. A choir performance will follow the discussion.

“We want to end (the night) on a high note,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the basic principle of the Unity Walk has been the same in its seven years. The main focus of the walk is to honor King, but this year, it will also include King’s time as a college student.

While in college, Johnson said, King was in Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. Johnson said Joseph Shepard — a member of Wichita State’s Alpha Phi Alpha chapter — will talk about that aspect of King’s life.

“You’ll hear a lot about Martin Luther King as a student, as the person who pledged Alpha Phi Alpha,” Johnson said. “We want to kind of reflect on who he was as a college student.”

There will also be a speech about King’s wife, Coretta Scott King, Johnson said.

“A lot of the time they highlight the men of the movement, but there are a lot of strong women who were standing with them,” Johnson said.  

Johnson said ODI also encourages attendees to recognize other civil rights leaders, such as Malcolm X or President Barack Obama, or local individuals such as Wichita City Council member Lavonta Williams or Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer.

“If someone has made changes for them, I want them to talk about the other people who are here with us during this fight,” Johnson said.

The Unity Walk is free and open to the WSU and Wichita communities.