WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rallying for affirmative action, approximately 50 students of the College joined 50,000 protestors who marched from the U.S. Supreme Court to the Lincoln Memorial, on Tuesday, April 1.
The participants attended the march in response to “a national call by BAMN (By Any Means Necessary) for a new national civil rights movement,” Roy Dean Johnson Jr., president of the Black Student Union (BSU), said.
According to Johnson, BSU payed for one bus and Union Latina and the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) split the cost of a second bus. The Minority Mentoring Program also participated.
All students at the College were invited to attend the march.
“We decided to come together to defend the rights necessary to heed the call,” Johnson said.
The Supreme Court heard two cases that day regarding affirmative action at the University of Michigan, Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger.
“If lost, affirmative action would not be a policy protected under law, as previously in cases such as Brown vs. Board of Ed, and so we thought it was necessary to defend these rights,” Johnson said.
Affirmative action is defined by Dictionary.com as a program that seeks to redress past discrimination through active measures to ensure equal opportunity, as in education and employment.
Recently, California and Texas have eliminated affirmative action programs from their systems of higher education.
According to CNN.com, Bush called affirmative action “a quota system” that rejects or accepts students “based soley on race.”
This caused debate at the University of Michigan.
“There are many who oppose this viewpoint, as evidenced by the enormous turnout at the march,” Darren Lewis, freshman mechanical engineering major, said.
He marched “because it’s for a good cause, as I agree with the usage of affirmative action. I think it gives a far advantage not just to black and minority students, but any students in urban areas where they didn’t get as many advantages academically.”
“It may seem like affirmative action is only for blacks,” Lewis said, “but it really is for anyone from urban areas. It’s just more blacks come from those areas.”
Johnson described the event as being “one of those really meaningful experiences that you have in life.”
Jesse Jackson and Reverend Al Sharpton were among the speakers at the event.
“The parts listening to them speak were sort of hyped moments of fun,” Johnson said. “To see so many people there marching in something for civil rights was very historic,” he added.
“The best part was the actual march,” Lewis said. “Every time we were at a street corner, I’d look back behind me, as I was in front holding the banner, and I could see the people just flowing as far as I could see.”
“It was cold at first and raining a little bit, but as soon as we started marching, it was like the sun came out of the clouds and it was nice for the rest of the day,” Johnson said.
Lewis described the crowd as being “all riled up, and screaming and shouting the whole time.”
He noted that the initially dreary weather failed to lower the group’s morale.
“Overall, it was a wonderful experience,” Johnson said.
His only hope is that if a similar event occurred in the future, more students of the College would attend.