Mercyhurst community finds unity in diversity

Kristian Biega, Staff writer

On Jan. 15, members of the Mercyhurst community gathered with hundreds of others from the city of Erie for a march in remembrance and celebration of the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

The goal of the march is to bring together people from every culture and background to celebrate diversity in the community and the civil rights actions led by King in the 1960s for peace, justice and solidarity.

“Honestly, one of the great things about this march is being unified through a recognition and appreciation of our diversity in this city of Erie that we call home, and honoring and celebrating MLK’s legacy in ways that push us towards positive social change,” Colin Hurley, director of Community Engagement, said.

The annual MLK Memorial March in Erie is a peaceful walk that begins at Perry Square and ends at the Martin Luther King Center at 312 Chestnut St.

The theme for this year focused on job access, particularly for minorities. Significant difficulties are faced by individuals throughout Erie when searching for employment.

Even though the January weather was cold, about a dozen administrators and students from Mercyhurst were not discouraged.

“Sometimes, especially with the political climate today, it seems as if the legacies of MLK are forgotten,” said Brittany Warren, sophomore Political Science major, “but to see so many people show up, even in the freezing weather, gives me hope.”

The day began with a rally downtown where participants were given refreshments, signs to carry and a chance to socialize before the march began, led by political and social leaders in Erie. The main speaker encouraged the crowds that with King’s spirit and legacy, “we shall overcome.”

“The atmosphere of the day was very hopeful,” said Warren. “After the rally, we sang ‘We Shall Overcome’ a lot while we were walking. It felt like a nice Baptist church back home, which was awesome.”

Next year, both Warren and Hurley agreed that they would like to see an even greater increase in connection with the Erie community for not only the MLK Memorial March, but for other events on and off campus that advocate for diversity, unity, social justice and peace.

“I saw faces this year of colleagues and friends that have never been represented before, so I feel like, in these polarized times, its an act of response that one can take to say they care,” Hurley said.

Even the simple action of coming together as a community, walking in unity, is a way to confront issues of injustice, rather than turning away from them.

“I look forward to seeing more students and their ideas and how those align with our Mercy Mission of service and solidarity,” said Hurley. “We want to get the word out there early and encourage students and their clubs and organizations to be representatives at this march.”

Hurley has been participating in the march for many years and feels that is an important way to be active with not only the Erie community, but with those of all diversities.

“You don’t necessarily need to know the other people you are walking with, but just know that you stand for the same things,” said Hurley. “That really shows the values of what it means to be a community and to listen to each other. There really is unity in diversity.”