Roughly 200 student-athletes and Kansas State Athletics faculty members took to the streets on Sunday afternoon dressed in black shirts.
The reason? To protest racial injustice.
Organized by women’s basketball junior guard Christianna Carr, the walk started at the ICE Family Basketball Center and went to Ahearn Fieldhouse. Once at Ahearn, student-athletes, K-State President Richard Myers, Athletics Director Gene Taylor and head football coach Chris Klieman spoke to the gathered crowd.
“I just thought it was a good idea to add our own twist to [the protests],” Carr said. “Whenever I was discussing ideas, I remembered that Martin Luther King Jr. spoke here and so I just thought what a better spot to march to. From one of our athletic places where we all go every day, to a place where one of the best people who has ever walked for social justice has [talked].”
Carr planned the protest only a day in advance while getting coffee with her teammates.
“I was kind of just sitting, getting coffee with [Ayoka Lee] and Sydney Goodson and I was like ‘Guys I want to do a protest,’” Carr said. “So [Lee] reached out to Brynn [Carlson] on the volleyball team and I reached out to Julian Jones, he talked to Gene Taylor and he was like ‘Let’s do it tomorrow.’ So it was a really quick turnaround. I made the flyer last night at 10:30 and got everything set up but I thought it was a really good turnout.”
Chants of “No justice, no peace” echoed across the streets as the group walked together.
Upon arriving at Ahearn, senior quarterback Skylar Thompson, senior running back Tyler Burns, sophomore rower Maya Morrow and Carr all spoke on injustices Black people face in America.
“Y’all know the names George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Jacob Blake,” Burns said to the protestors. “Those are just a handful of the names that have been victims and have suffered due to racial injustice and systematic racism and police brutality in our country. We just can not stand idly by and pretend like nothing is happening, we can’t be indifferent, we have to take action.”
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The protest comes exactly one week after Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times by Kenosha, Wis., police officers.
Klieman then spoke, saying that he was “saddened and hurting,” seeing fear in his student-athletes’ eyes every day.
“We have voices, many of those voices have been heard on this campus already,” Klieman said. “Some of the silent voices, and a lot of that is many people like myself, the white people. Stand up and say something, stand up and say, ‘Enough is enough,’ don’t say ‘It’s not your problem,’ it is your problem. The only way we are going to get through this is by everybody coming together and not saying, ‘That’s their problem, they’ll deal with it.’ That’s bullshit.”
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President Myers talked about Martin Luther King Jr. and his visit to Ahearn on Jan. 19, 1968, paraphrasing one of King’s quotes from that visit.
“[King] said, ‘You know when I come here and I am with young people, I get rejuvenated, I get hope, because you’re the hope, the young people are the hope. They have a better idea of what we should be like than the older folks,’” Myers said. “It’s true — you are the hope and you give me hope.”
Taylor finished the speeches by talking about the power athletes have on campus.
“Right now our world is upside down, our country is upside down, and the way to turn that right side up is all of you,” Taylor said. “It’s the people out here, it’s your teammates, it’s your friends, because you do have power, you do have a voice and we need to continue to take action.”
Once the speeches were over, the entire group either kneeled or sat in silence and solidarity as Keedron Bryant’s “I Just Wanna Live” was played over the speakers, before the group walked back to the ICE Family Basketball Center.
Carr said she hopes this will be the first step in motivating the athletes and others to start making change.
“It wasn’t like a call to action, it was more like motivation,” Carr said. “I feel like a lot of people in these times are stuck on what to do next or what to do at all, so I’m hoping by hearing from our president, our athletic director, some of our student-athletes, that people will self reflect on their life and it will motivate them to reach out and do their part.”