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Hundreds join Unity Day fete on The Green

Click here for photo album

6:16 p.m., April 21, 2006--More than 500 students, faculty, staff and Newark residents converged on the North Green to enjoy dances, songs, poetry and free food during festivities to mark UD's first Unity Day on Friday, April 21, which began with a march from several campus locations.

The participants mingled on the lawn as Bob Marley's famous song, “One Love,” played on loudspeakers. Student testimonials and readings were interspersed with performances, including a belly dance by the African Student Association, a comedy skit by Rubber Chickens and a performance by UD's Gospel Choir.

“With all the negative press about hate crimes, it's easy to read about it and just blow it off, but there are a lot of things that kids can do, and this event opens your eyes and gives you a sense of unity on campus,” Ben Stannard, a sophomore hotel, restaurant and institutional management major, said. “I hope it will become an annual Unity Day.”

The idea for Unity Day was conceived in meetings between University administrators and six African-American students after a series of bias-related incidents occurred on the UD campus during the fall semester

“I salute the kids for having organized it,” UD President David P. Roselle said. “This is the students' idea and a student-run event.”

Many of the participants wore giveaway T-shirts with a graphic touting UD's zero tolerance policy for hate crimes on the front and a quote from Buddha, “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love,” and the web address for UD's Zero Tolerance for Hate Crimes web site [www.udel.edu/stophate] on the back.

“How can I not give up a few minutes of my time for a cause like this? Actions speak louder than words,” Alexandra Gawel, a freshman University studies major, said as she pointed to the front of her T-shirt and then paused during the singing of the national anthem. “I hope that the simple act of marching here will encourage others to follow in our footsteps.”

Alumna Kelly Green, AS '91, CHEP '94, joined the festivities with her daughters, Alison, 10, and Kate, 5. They were accompanied by Angela Seguin, program coordinator at UD's Wellspring, the peer education and outreach program of UD's Center for Counseling and Student Development, and her two daughters, Jordan, 9, and Ellie, 6.

“Children need to be exposed at all age levels, and they need to know what's happening in the world around them,” Green said.

Newark Mayor Vance Funk said he was pleased to see the University community at the event. “The most important thing to come out of this is that it brought all the different groups on campus together to express outrage against hate crimes,” he said. “We have a strong community in the University and the whole of Newark.”

Leland Ware, Louis L. Redding Chair for the Study of Law and Public Policy, said the event will help promote awareness within the University community and promote good relationships.

“This University is very diverse and this is good for the students and the community. You feel like you are a part of a successful family,” Wei Zhong, a doctoral student in electrical engineering, said. “After this, I hope to see more smiles from everyone on campus and more interaction between students from different backgrounds and more events like this.”

Marilyn Prime, director of student centers, said the successful event, one of the few University-wide student events, was made possible by collaboration among several student organizations.

“What I'm really enjoying is the spirit. A lot of people are here because they want to be here, not because they have to be here,” Prime said. “There is a big difference in that. It's the spirit of unity.”

Article by Martin Mbugua
Photos by Kevin Quinlan

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