Beloit to promote voting rights with Freedom March
The Office for Inclusive Living and Learning is hoping to bring Beloit College’s campus together with members of the greater Beloit community for a Freedom March on Saturday, Oct. 1 to commemorate the Voting Rights Marches of the Civil Rights Movement and encourage citizens to vote in the upcoming election. The school is partnering with community organizations such as the League of Women Voters, the NAACP, the Rock County Clerk’s Office, Beloit Memorial High School, and both the Democratic and Republican parties of Rock County in order to reach out to as much of the Beloit community as possible.
The march will begin at Riverside Park at the Jones Pavilion at 9:45 a.m. Those taking part will then walk over the Ken Hendricks Memorial Bridge and to the Barkin Arena at Beloit Memorial High School for roughly a one-mile trek.
The Freedom March has been in the works since October 2015, and many students and faculty have put forth effort to ensure a successful turnout. With the help of Director of Intercultural Affairs Cecil Youngblood and Office for Inclusive Living and Learning Coordinator Daksha Howard, Theodore Williams’18 has been a driving force behind the event.
“When asked by Cecil last October to start developing ideas for Martin Luther King, Jr. Week, I was only looking to do small events that centered around the ideals of King,” said Williams, “but making a connection from the ‘60s to the present was much more vital.”
According to Williams, the scope of the event didn’t reach its potential until Howard helped put it into a more relative, present-day context by using the upcoming presidential election as a comparison.
“With the election growing near, we sought not really to make it about politics, but more about the importance of exercising our right of suffrage due to the fact that college students and minorities’ voter practices are seemingly oppressed due to strong liberal ideals,” Williams said.
Another goal of the event is to bring the college together with the members of the rest of the Beloit community, and hope that they realize they are no different from one another, Williams explained.
“We are all affected as a whole by the tragedies that surround us,” he said. “It is also important for the community to feel comfortable enough to collaborate on events and discussions that will help the community as a whole.”
The event will feature speakers from the college and high school. Local organizations will also be at BMHS following the march to help register people to vote as well as give them voting information. In order to register, citizens must be 18 years old by Election Day, be a U.S. citizen, provide proof of residence, and have resided in Beloit for at least 28 days prior to the election.
“We must appreciate the rights that our brothers and sisters fought so hard to achieve, just to make our lives slightly better,” said Williams. “It’s not about voting for Hillary [Clinton] because it’s not [Donald] Trump. It’s about voting because you can and no one can take that away from you.”