Friday, November 18, 2016

Michigan Tech students, community members unite in anti-hate demonstration and walk for unity

By Michele Bourdieu

Students gather in the center of the Michigan Tech campus for the demonstration and walk for unity on Nov. 16, 2016. Pictured here with signs are, from left, Neffertia Tyner, psychology major; Stephanie Bean, biochemistry major; and Shadi Darani, PhD student in mechanical engineering. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)

HOUGHTON -- A demonstration and walk for unity attracted a large number of participants on Wednesday, Nov. 16, as Michigan Tech students joined faculty, staff, families with children and other local community members to walk from the center of campus to the edge of downtown Houghton with signs, flags and banners attesting love over hate, unity over division.

Neffertia Tyner and Emma Hitch, environmental engineering student, call attention to the beginning of the walk and invite participants to a Thanksgiving meal to follow at St. Albert the Great Church. The dinner was sponsored by Canterbury House.*

Neffertia Tyner, one of the organizers of the student-led event, explained the reason for the demonstration.

"We knew a lot of people  who felt 'down' about the election results and students needed the reassurance that they were supported," Tyner said.

Tyner, who is one of the student staff at the Center for Diversity and Inclusion on campus, said the event was entirely organized by students. While the Center did not sponsor it, they provided some signs and participated in the walk. Some students also made their own signs at home.

"I feel like we had a pretty good turnout," Tyner added. "I like how a lot of faculty and staff we know came out to support it."

One of those was Lorelle Meadows, Dean of Michigan Tech's Honors College, who said, "I'm here to support our community."

Ready to participate in the walk are Michigan Tech Professor and Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC) Director Guy Meadows; his wife, Lorelle Meadows, left, Dean of Michigan Tech's Honors College; and Anika Kuczynski, formerly of Germany, a graduate student in environmental engineering at GLRC.

Sherry Middlemis-Brown, left, came all the way from Sherman Township in Keweenaw County to participate in the event. Here she shares her sign with Bob Drake of Houghton. Sherry said she heard about the event through her church.

A crowd estimated at about 250 people of all ages begins walking through campus. At left is Nancy Langston, Michigan Tech professor of environmental history in Social Sciences and a member of GLRC. 

The participants walk through campus toward downtown Houghton:

On Nov. 16, 2016, a peaceful demonstration of unity, against hate, begins on campus at Michigan Tech University and continues to downtown Houghton. Participants include students, faculty and staff and their families, and other local community members. Click on YouTube icon for larger screen. (Video by Keweenaw Now)

Near the miner's statue at the edge of downtown Houghton, the walkers turned around and headed back to campus:

Participants in the Michigan Tech walk for unity and against hate return to campus after walking to downtown Houghton on Nov. 16, 2016. (Video by Keweenaw Now)

The walk was peaceful and relatively silent to be respectful of classes that were being held, businesses, and other people in the community. 

Kellie Raffaelli, Center for Diversity and Inclusion director, said the event was organized entirely by students and the Center's role was mainly to forward emails and spread the word.

"The students came to us and told us they were organizing a walk to show the community that hate is not welcome here," she said.

* Canterbury House had been planning the Thanksgiving meal before the event was organized but then decided to invite all the participants to the free meal. Canterbury House in Houghton provides a safe place for students, faculty, staff and their families to gather for conversation, food and fellowship. The Canterbury House International Tutoring Center is a non-profit student organization that is dedicated to working with international students, faculty, and their spouses for the improvement of conversational English, cultural understanding, and reading and writing skills. Visit their Facebook page for more information.

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