Sherry Labady — a protester — paraded a cart full of Lays chips, Ritz crackers, water bottles and other refreshments around the Diag, allowing other demonstrators to take from her pile. She wandered with a smile throughout the sea of people, many of whom represented different races, ages, schools and backgrounds. 

“(This is) for my daughter and for everyone else who knows or is a Black person,” Labady, who is white, said. “Just to support them and love them. I have a biracial daughter and that means more to me to make sure I support her for what she might go through or has gone through.”

Though she is white herself, Labady understands the horrors racism can bring through her daughter’s experiences. She attended Sunday’s Black Lives Matter rally organized by Eastern Michigan and Michigan student-athletes to listen, be inspired and join in unity to support a common goal.

And in the athletes who spoke Sunday, she found that inspiration. As Labady spoke with The Daily, Naz Hillmon, a sophomore forward on the Michigan women’s basketball team, stood atop the steps to the Hatcher Graduate Library, giving a heartfelt speech.

“Look at us, there’s I don’t know how many people out here right now, but we’re listening,” Hillmon said to protesters. “We’re listening to each other and we’re gonna make everybody else listen. So go ahead, educate yourself, vote, and speak up.”

Hillmon — despite not being a leader of the protest — marched in the crowd along with her teammates, fellow student-athletes, students and other participants, and still stepped out of the crowd to volunteer to speak.

Kellynn Wison, Eastern Michigan’s associate Athletic Director, also decided to take the stage.

“Y’all are the change factors here,” Wilson said to protesters. “ … Your generation is where change is gonna happen … but what are we gonna do next?”

Each of the speakers had a message they wanted people to hear. It’s easy to say what you believe, but the harder part is getting other people to listen and act on the messages you are providing. Ultimately, it takes more than individuals to enact change.

“It’s gonna take a process,” Hillmon said. “Obviously, we’ve been going through this process of protests and marches since March. … It’s not gonna be easy, it’s not gonna be quick, but as long as we keep on going, the battle will come in favor of us.”

Those in the crowd seemed up to the task. They took the hardest step and showed up. Labady was just one of those hundreds of people who attended the march, wanting to listen.

“There’s just so much injustice going on and it’s been going on for a while,” LSA sophomore Maya Ferguson said. “ … We need to speak up. I know I’m trying as much as I can to do my part and to influence those around me. … I really think that’s a big thing, having conversations with people and being OK with shaking the table.”

Ferguson and the hundreds others did just that by showing up and keeping an open mind.

Anastasia Sahu — another LSA student — added: “I came out here because it’s about time that people started speaking up about this stuff. … This is a lifetime of advocacy that has to continue and continue and continue. If it stops with one day and that’s it, nothing is going to happen.”

Everyone had their own reason to be out there on Sunday, whether that be to protest the way they, a loved one — like in Labaday’s case — or a friend have been treated, or simply because they are tired of the systemic racism and police brutality happening in this country. 

Despite their individual motivations or backgrounds, they marched as one throughout downtown Ann Arbor and listened to each other, showing what true unity looks like.

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