In support of the fight for equality and fairness, a Martin Luther King, Jr. Rally for Justice took place in the Egan Chapel of St. Ignatius Loyola on Tuesday, Jan. 23. The evening was centered on several different injustices and how they have impacted Fairfield University. Through songs from the civil rights movement era and speeches, faculty and students gathered in solidarity to create a dialogue to move forward without ignoring the injustices of the past.
However, the rally seemed to have a low turnout with about 20 attendees.
President and Founder of the Black Student Union Fairfield Zavon Billups ‘18 stated that, “I wish there was a bigger turnout. However, I believe the essence of the MLK rally, and impact that activism at Fairfield has had was preserved and for that I am grateful.”
Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Christine Siegel introduced the theme of finding truth.
“When one finds the truth, they can speak it to power,” said Siegel.
Alizada Khan, a Muslim Chaplain for the University, discussed the injustices she has faced for her sex and religious identity.
She repeatedly stated that “timing has never been my strong suit,” when discussing her move to the U.S. right before 9/11 and accepting the role as Muslim Chaplain of Fairfield in 2015 when Donald Trump announced his presidency and anti-Muslim platform.
Billups discussed one of the most recent issues of inequality Fairfield has dealt with: the Ghetto Party in February 2016. He believed there was more empathy given to those that were in the wrong rather than those who were wronged and offended by the stereotypes perpetuated by the party.
One of the speakers at the rally, Dr. Jocelyn Boryczka, professor of politics, stated that, “We are reminded of Dr. King’s words in the letter from Birmingham Jail … Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”
She went on to make it a point that both Fairfield faculty and students are standing with custodial workers in their strive for job security and economic justice. However, she posed a question: why are not all faculty and students standing with the University’s custodial workers?
Dr. David McFadden, professor of history, who assisted in organizing the rally, highlighted that, “This rally happens every year and people celebrate the times that Fairfield University has stood up for justice and the events of past years that we can emulate in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”
He also added that, “The other thing that I love about this would be the civil rights songs that we sing because a lot of students and many faculty don’t even know them, so we try to keep those alive as well.”
Billups, who spoke at the event as well, added that, “Dr. King’s Legacy, and my belief in preserving the history of this institution are my reasons for being a part of it.”
Another student who spoke at the rally, Sean Tomlinson ‘19, noted that she had started to be friends with one of the custodians here at Fairfield, adding that, “all the words I could say wouldn’t stack up to half the person she is.”
Tomlinson began talking to her and noticed that over time, she began to become more open to her and complain about the prevalent overarching managerial problems going on. She stated that, “the workers were in a constant state of either fear or distrust, so they weren’t happy with their working conditions.”
Throughout the event, the ideals of justice and equality were continuously enforced and held as the standard for the future of Fairfield University.