As protests again grip the United States after the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, hundreds of West Virginia University students, student-athletes and coaches assembled at the WVU Coliseum for the first-ever Mountaineers United Walk.
The event’s wide participation came despite its short-notice organization by the WVU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Co-President Audrey Adams, a member of WVU’s volleyball team, had the idea on Thursday night and reached out to her fellow leaders.
Just days later — Saturday, to be exact — student-athletes began getting the word out, and on Sunday, hundreds of members of the WVU community showed up.
“I mean, we’ve all been really thinking about how we can make a change, how can we make a difference, how can we be better as people, to help everyone around us and help support the rest of our athletic department,” said Ben Brooks, a Mountaineer swimmer and the organization’s other Co-President.
The walk began at the WVU Coliseum, went down Patteson Drive and ended at the fields at the Student Rec Center. In the crowd were members of all of WVU’s athletic programs, including coaches, players and staff, as well as a host of other students and individuals.
At the fields, marchers listened to a docket of speakers, including Adams, Brooks, WVU Director for Student-Athlete Development Tangela Cheatham, Delegate Danielle Walker and linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo.
“We can’t go out and effect everybody else, but we can definitely change what happens in Morgantown and in our community,” said Chandler-Semedo, who is active with WVUSAAC and a member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity. “This is our community — we go to school here, we live here — so we’ve just got to make this the best. We’ve got to change lives here.”
Ultimately, the WVUSAAC’s efforts won’t end at this march alone.
“We have to keep these conversations going,” Adams said. “Each team has to take action, and one of the really cool things the Big 12 is doing this year is creating a bunch of initiatives for social justice. We’ve seen the NBA do it, the NFL, so why not us? We have a voice, we have a platform, so we’re excited to use it and encourage our teammates to do so.”