VERMILLION, S.D. – The Cultural Wellness Coalition (CWC), a new student organization aimed at bridging the gap between cultures at the University of South Dakota and in the Vermillion community, hosted a peaceful march for solidarity on Wednesday, Sept. 2, to bring awareness to and start a conversation around the topics of racism and societal inequalities.
Many supporters joined the march, including students, student-athletes, coaches, university leaders and members of the Vermillion community. Before the event began, student leaders asked all participants to wear masks and social distance as a protective measure against COVID-19. The march started at the DakotaDome and ended at Old Main, concluding with student speakers.
The CWC first came together as a group at the end of May after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Its primary goal was to identify ways the community could work together to create positive change, said CWC Co-President senior Marcus Destin.
“Once we came together and started to collaborate on the many ideas we had to help connect, enlighten, educate and reimagine this community, we knew we were on to something,” Destin said. “Many of us students are leaders on campus between sports teams, other student groups and through our academics, and we realize that with our platform and our strong relationship with President Gestring and other community leaders, we have a unique opportunity to create lasting change.”
USD senior and student-athlete Darion Bolden said it was important to him to convey the message that Black athletes deserve to feel the same support off the field as they do on the field.
“You can’t love me without loving my skin color and who I am,” Bolden said. “I can take off my jersey, but I can’t take off my skin color; I can’t change that. And I’m proud to say that I’m black, I’m African American. You can’t support us and love us unless you support this movement and are for racial equality and justice.”
The student group has already started working alongside several groups at USD and has initiated productive conversations with different community groups, including the Vermillion Police Department, to discuss ways they can work together to better connect the different cultures that comprise Vermillion.
“I have a great deal of respect for the newly formed Cultural Wellness Coalition student group,” said USD President Sheila K. Gestring. “The students’ goal of creating a positive culture throughout the community is admirable and something all of us can support. Today’s peaceful walk is in support of this main goal, and each step taken today is a step toward positive change.”
To learn more about the Cultural Wellness Coalition, visit https://usdinvolved.usd.edu/organization/cwc.