Thomas Nieman, Staff Writer
The fifth annual Unity Walk was held on Sept. 2, and while this year’s event looked different due to COVID-19 restrictions, the event was still on schedule.
The event began at 8 a.m. with “Moments of Thought and Reflection,” as well as an on and off-campus moment of reflection for the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was murdered in May by a Minneapolis police officer.
Inspired by the students, faculty and staff who walked the streets of Utica throughout the 1990’s demonstration for social justice, UC established the Walk A Mile For Unity event otherwise referred to as the Unity Walk as of 2016. This has since become a yearly tradition to start the academic year and serves as a commitment to promote and protect individuals from all walks of life.
“It’s a symbol of leadership, it’s a symbol of transformational leadership because we’re changing the way we think about how we engage, how we live, how we learn, and how we work together in this environment, in this space, in this community,” said Anthony Baird, vice president of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer at Utica College.
The event continued with “Call to Walk a Mile for Unity,” with Utica College President Laura Casamento, who was joined by representatives from the Utica College community, sharing the importance of diversity, inclusion and equality and what it means to them.
The Unity Walk itself took place between 1 and 7 p.m. This year, groups consisting of eight or fewer people met at Duffy Plaza throughout the day to begin their walk, directed by volunteers.
Social distancing and masks were required and enforced to comply with COVID-19 restrictions. The walk ended outside of Strebel Student Center, where walkers were encouraged to sign the “Pledge for Unity” to solidify their commitment to social justice.
Community members who were unable to come on campus walked a mile on their own, showing solidarity with Utica College and sharing their walk on social media using the hashtag #UCommUNITY.
The event continued virtually with a group session at 7 p.m. offered by the Counseling Center. The event officially concluded with a virtual speech at 8 p.m. on Utica College’s Facebook page.
“We have to be about respecting and appreciating each citizen, each person,“ said Baird. “Celebrating diversity and unifying our diversity is very important and critical to how we coexist, how we thrive and how we help to make the world a better place.“