Zeta Phi Beta’s Unity March fights against sexual violence

The event was in response to recent sexual assaults in the community.

The women who founded the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. in 1981 had seen the Civil Rights movement firsthand. Growing up in the '60s and '70s, their parents had protested for freedom.

Thirty years later, the women of this organization still continue to raise awareness through the same method.

“I think when they felt like they needed to bring awareness, they marched,” President Chanecka Williams said. “It’s my duty to keep some traditions alive from the past so we don’t get out of touch with our roots.”

For the past few years, the women have marched annually to support a cause they hold dearly. This year, they marched against sexual violence with a slogan of “kNOw More.” Williams said this idea spawned after sexual assault cases occurred on campus and around the Columbia area.

“I was talking to my sorors about the sexual assault case that happened on campus and then another in the community and I was like, ‘We have to do something; say something,’” Williams said. “This is not okay. We all looked around for a moment. It as like one of those ‘light bulb’ moments.”

After deciding on the theme, Williams and the women began to look into ideas for flyers and T-shirts, which are still on sale. It was then she realized the march happened to occur in the midst of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which made it all the more relevant.

“In our culture, on our campus and within this community, the rates have been rising,” said Antaniece Sills, vice president of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council. “We’re taking a stand and fighting against it through the walk.”

About 60 people marched in the event, Williams said.

“There were people who were all colors and sexes, and that was important to me,” she said. “The point of a unity march is that we all band together for a cause, no matter what the difference may be because this cause is not just a female or male thing. It is an everybody thing.”

Departing from the columns on Francis Quadrangle, the marchers walked to the columns at the old Boone Countycourt House.

“It’s a centralized location in the area,” Sills said. “It’s not too far and people will see us.”

After the group returned to the Quad, they gathered for a discussion on sexual violence with the newly formed student group, A Woman Inspired. For the discussion, peer educators from the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center and True North spoke to the audience about their jobs and volunteer opportunities.

“We believe that it was very important to have this event because sexual assault is unfortunately prevalent on college campuses,” A Woman Inspired executive board member Jenee Duncan said. “We wanted to give people information so they can help anyone they may know going through it, or how to help themselves if they are victims.”

A protest like this is more proactive, Williams said.

“Marches have impact because they are rare,” she said. “We are no longer protesting or even being personal. We just support a cause on Facebook or give our money without even so much of a blink of an eye.”

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