“It’s our duty to fight for our freedom,” chanted dozens of Oswego State students marching from Oswego City Hall to the Marano Campus Center for the fifth annual ALANA Unity Peace Walk.
On a warm fall afternoon, over 20 fists rose into the air along with posters, and shouts of, “We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
In hopes of improving equality among the minority community, the peace walk began with a spiritual anthem lamenting the disparities of ethnic populations.
The multicultural week of ALANA (African-Latino-Asian-Native American) celebrates diversity and promotes equality. The organization hosted several educational programs that empowered students with unity and social understanding.
Oswego State President Deborah Stanley explained that an increase in racial issues across the country creates a demand for solidarity.
“There is power in numbers,” Stanley said. “When people start to understand they see things the same way they can collect around a cause, even a cause that’s so long overdue. We can still bring attention to it. This is the right thing to do, and it’s emblematic of Oswego’s community.”
Stanley further explained the importance of programs that promote an all-inclusive community.
“It’s a moving target. We are never ever going to be there; it is never going to be enough,” Stanley said. “We are always going to have to watch how we operate and what we’re doing. “We are diversifying our faculty and are hiring a permanent chief diversity and inclusion offer this year.”
A chief diversity and inclusion officer would report directly to the president about discrimination present in the campus environment.
“For people to address micro aggressions and oppressions and all the things that make it a place that doesn’t feel comfortable,” Stanley said. “We are moving in that direction, but we need to go there faster.”
President of the Black Student Union, Sasha Huff, explained the walk is peace themed due to the bias present in neighborhoods lacking minorities.
“Oswego State University is predominantly white,” Huff said. “Often the presence of multiracial people and people of diverse backgrounds is overlooked. It’s important to have events like ALANA week to promote our culture and show that we make a difference at this school as well.”
During Huff’s freshman year, she was rejected from attending a fraternity party due to her race.
“My first week here I went to a social function,” Huff said. “Me and my two other roommates are of color, and when we went it was mostly white people there and they wouldn’t let us in. They said we weren’t invited but we were invited to the party. It hurt my feelings.”
Huff said it was her “first taste of the real world.”
Freshman Dylan Niamko held a cardboard poster etched with names of slain Missouri teenager Michael Brown and 25-year-old Baltimore native Freddie Gray, who were killed by police brutality.
“What’s happening in America is horrible, like the Eric Garner situation in New York City…that’s happening in our own state,” Niamko said.” These are basically 18, 19, these are teenagers. This could be me. This could be any of us at anytime. All that’s going on in the country, none of it’s okay.”
Since 1986, ALANA has given a voice to over 10,000 minority students and alumni.