IOWA CITY, Iowa – Five University of Iowa student-athletes are set to travel to Selma, Alabama, as part of the Big Ten Equality Coalition. The conference announced today that a group comprised of 100 student-athletes, coaches, administrators, conference staff, and other key stakeholders from across the conference participate in the Big Life Series: Selma to Montgomery, July 15-17, 2022. The trip is a journey to Selma and Montgomery, Alabama, for an immersive and educational experience at a key center of the civil rights movement.
The five Hawkeye student-athletes attending are Armando Bryson (track & field), Logan Lee (football), Kaevon Merriweather (football), Amiya Jones (volleyball) and Manuela Lizarazu (women’s golf).
The group, which will also include student-athletes, coaches, and administrators from the ACC and Pac-12, will participate in a variety of activities, including marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, site of the 1965 Bloody Sunday attack.
“I’m excited to traverse the same roads that allowed me to be in the position that I am in today,” Bryson said. “Walking across the Edmond Pettus Bridge will serve as testament to the bloodshed and pain felt by my ancestors fighting to change the tides in a nation with a sinister past.”
The trip will begin Friday night in Montgomery with Sheyann Webb-Christburg, author and eyewitness of the original Bloody Sunday attack, serving as the keynote speaker and a viewing of an episode of the documentary series “Eyes on the Prize.” The trip continues Saturday in Selma at the First Baptist Church, where hundreds of students coordinated by the Dallas County Voters League began their days’ long journey from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. The trip continues with a march across the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge before the group returns to Montgomery to visit a series of landmarks, museums and learning centers.
“I think it’s going to be very eye-opening,” Lee said. “There will be some emotions. I expect it to be challenging, but I’m excited to go and to be able to bring some of these things to light so that I’m able to gain a further understanding of what really went on.”
In Montgomery, the group will visit the Interpretive Center at Alabama State University, a historically black university (HBCU), to learn more about the profound impact that students had on the civil rights movement. The group will also visit the Civil Rights Memorial Center, the Alabama Department of Archives and History, and the award-winning Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) Legacy Museum, which provides a comprehensive overview of America’s history of racial injustice – from enslavement to mass incarceration.
“I want to expand on my knowledge of Black history while being exposed to historical narratives erased from the textbooks read around the United States,” Bryson said.
On Saturday evening, trip attendees will hear from EJI Legacy Museum founder and social justice lawyer Bryan Stevenson before forming small groups to discuss their experiences. The small group debrief sessions will be led by campus Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion directors.
“We have a good group and it’s going to be a lot of fun to interact and get to know each other’s stories and experiences better,” Lee said. “Once we get to Alabama, there are going to be a bunch of individuals from the Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12, so it will be a great opportunity to network and get to know people from other schools better.”
All member institutions will have conducted a series of introductory virtual meetings prior to traveling to Alabama to discuss the purpose of the trip and to prepare for their experience. Upon returning to campus after the trip, the Big Ten Conference will provide tools and opportunities for each attendee to convey their experiences about the trip to their peers.
Big Ten Equality Coalition features student-athletes, coaches, athletic directors, chancellors, presidents, and other members of the Big Ten Conference family from all 14 member institutions. It has a stated goal of seeking tangible ways to combat racism and hate around the world, while also empowering student-athletes to express their rights to free speech and peaceful protest actively and constructively. Following the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd, Big Ten Conference Commissioner Kevin Warren wrote an open letter on June 1, 2020, officially announcing the formation of the Equality Coalition and the United States Library of Congress included the letter in its historic collection. An early product of the Equality Coalition was the creation of the Big Ten Voter Registration Initiative. The nonpartisan, conference-wide collaboration encourages student-athletes to take part in the electoral process and is led by a Voter Registration Committee that includes representatives from all 14 Big Ten Conference member institutions. Big Life Series one of the latest examples of the Big Ten Equality Coalition in action.