Chanting “They say, ‘Jim Crowe,’ we say, ‘Hell no!” and “Affirmative action is a must, Detroit won’t go to the back of the bus,” about 60 Detroit high school students and organizers faced the cold Friday afternoon for a protest march on campus.
The march was organized by BAMN, or the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigrant Rights, and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary, which is a national group with chapters on college campuses and high schools across the country.
The group began their protest on the Diag before marching along North University Avenue.
Event organizer Leroy Lewis, a Wayne State University sophomore, said the protest on campus has become an MLK weekend tradition.
“What we’re trying to do is remember him in action, and we’re trying to keep up momentum around our case for affirmative action that went before the Supreme Court on Oct. 14 of last year,” Lewis said.
The University’s grapple with affirmative action hit the national stage at the Supreme Court in October. The court heard oral arguments for Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. The case questions the legality of a 2006 amendment to the Michigan State Constitution, Proposal 2, which banned the consideration of race in college admissions process, among other factors.
University alum Kate Stenvig, a national BAMN organizer, said while the group primarily was marching for affirmative action, the rally aimed to address multiple issues, including promoting scholarships for immigrants.
While Stenvig had not seen the University’s announcement on Thursday that promised a variety of initiatives to improve diversity on campus, she said her experience at the University in the past leaves her doubtful that any concrete change is coming soon.
“That is not enough, and that is kind of bullshit honestly,” she said. “They know what they have to do to increase those numbers and it’s not difficult.”
Markeith Jones, a sophomore at Northwestern High School in Detroit, said he marched to help better the future for both himself and his classmates. He said BAMN hopes to cure the hostile racial climate on campus and make the University more accessible for minority students.
“I’m here to defend them,” Jones said. “Hopefully they’ll be able to get a college education, hopefully they won’t have to be profiled against and I’m here to make sure that their lives are better and they have a better learning environment.”
Capri Smith, another Northwestern student, added that low levels of minority enrollment and what she’s heard about campus climate have dissuaded her from applying to the University.
Detroit BAMN organizer Neal Lyons stressed the importance of the students that marched, saying they are critically important to the movement’s path forward and to American history.
“This nation is becoming a majority minority nation, and this generation is at the forefront of that,” Lyons said. “What the fight for equality means in the 21st century is going to be defined by everything that this generation is experiencing.”
BAMN organizers said they plan to hold another march Monday.
—Daily News Editor Will Greenberg contributed to this report.