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Community to come together for fifth annual Unity Walk

September 3, 2018

An upcoming Unity Walk aims to bring people together to better understand one another and our own implicit bias.

University students, faculty and staff are invited to walk together with members of the DeKalb community in the fifth annual event beginning at 5 p.m. Sept. 20 in the MLK Commons. Remarks will begin at 5:15 p.m., followed by the walk at 5:45 p.m. and refreshments and a round table discussion themed around implicit bias at 6:30 p.m. in the Holmes Student Center.

“The event has gained momentum over the years, and we want to continue to make it encompassing for all,” said NIU Police Deputy Chief Darren Mitchell.

The NIU Police Department hosts the event along with DeKalb Police and campus and community leaders.

“We want to have an event that basically brings people together to show there are more similarities in all of us than differences, give people a chance to see one another face-to-face, speak with one another, laugh with one another, dialogue with one another,” Mitchell said. “Spend some time with someone you otherwise wouldn’t get to know in your community and open up and build bridges.”

Following the same route as last year, the walk will leave from MLK Commons and go up Normal Drive to Lucinda through Greenbriar and back to MLK Commons.

Those involved in planning the event this year grew to include leaders from DeKalb High School and Kishwaukee Community College, said Kelly Wesener Michael, associate vice president for Student Affairs and Dean of Students.

“I’m honored to be part of this important event and thrilled to see it evolve into a tradition over the past five years,” Wesener Michael said. “We look forward to welcoming everyone to our campus as we stand together in unity and celebrate the diversity of our communities.”

The event began five years ago following protests in Missouri over the death of Michael Brown, a resident of Ferguson, Mo. Brown was killed by a police officer, resulting in national news.

NIU Police Chief Tom Phillips, along with DeKalb Police Chief Gene Lowery and New Hope Baptist Church Pastor Joseph Mitchell created a Unity March to bring the university and DeKalb communities together.

It’s still about bringing people together, but a “walk” better describes the intention, Mitchell said. As opposed to voicing concerns or protesting, it’s about communicating, learning about one another and breaking down barriers.

“The walk has enabled students and community members to engage in conversation while they walk and even after with the discussions that we’ve had,” said Vernese Edghill-Walden, chief diversity officer at NIU.

“In previous years, the post-walk discussions have given us tools on how we can better engage or communicate with each other, and we hope to do the same this year.”