Poster-waving, maize-and-blue-wearing affirmative action supporters moved their march away from the usual activism hotspot of Ann Arbor this weekend, showing their support in downtown Detroit for the University’s race-conscious admissions policies. After listening to speeches near Comerica Park, Detroit residents and other supporters marched down to the U.S. Federal Courthouse, where the University’s lawsuits against race-conscious admissions policies were originally heard two years ago.
Declaring their reasons for defending affirmative action, Detroit civil rights leaders, activists, members of the clergy and college students rallied to rouse enthusiasm of the 200-plus crowd.
“Race should be discovered and developed as a character,” said the Rev. Wendel Anthony, president of the Detroit branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “Our legacy isn’t going to a university, it was building the university for everyone to enjoy,” he said, referring to the added admission points given to athletes or for students with a legacy.
The national organizer for the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary, Shanta Driver, also spoke before the crowd, pushing for a national march on Washington on April 1 – the day the Supreme Court will hear the University’s admission policies lawsuit.
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Detroit) also urged supporters to march before the Supreme Court.
“Change comes from the bottom, from the people to the leaders,” she said. “You have to force leaders to act.”
The rally was organized by the Coalition to Defend Equal Opportunity and other groups including the NAACP, after the Detroit City Council declared and reaffirmed its support for the University’s affirmative action policies earlier this month.
Proponents of affirmative action say race-conscious admissions policies diversifies the University, while opponents say the process of diversifying the campus discriminates against white students.
LSA junior Cyril Cordor, a BAMN member, said he was impressed by the impassioned speakers at the rally.
“It was a good way to mobilize the Detroit community,” Cordor said. “And it shows that there is a new civil rights movement building.”