COLUMBIA — "LOVE, HATE, LIFE, DEATH Knows No Color."
These words flowed across the front of a large poster held by Lana Mims, one of five Community About Raising Excellence members who participated in a march against racial stereotypes on Tuesday.
CARE, which began at MU in the fall, is composed of minority athletes who participate in community service opportunities to help out around Columbia.
The march "is personal. (Stereotyping) is obviously still a problem," said Terry Dennis, an MU football player and member of CARE.
The march, organized by president Jason Miller, was scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. But the start was delayed to give more people the chance to show up.
The five members of CARE in attendance — Miller, Dennis, track and field athletes JáNay Woolridge and Mims and basketball player Alyssa Hollins — formed a joint effort to recruit more marchers via text-messaging and phone calls. CARE member and basketball player J.T. Tiller stopped by to show his support but was unable to participate in the march.
The group waited patiently until about 2:30 p.m. Though no one else arrived, they grabbed their signs with smiles on their faces and began their march through MU, beginning at the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center and heading through Lowry Mall to Jesse Hall.
The small group turned heads as they laughed and held signs with colorfully crafted messages, such as "Free minds" and "I am not my skin," all while trying to recruit others for the march along the way.
Stereotyping "is something I see in everyday life and with people in general, not just African-Americans," Mims said. “Being a black athlete, I get off-comment jokes about not being smart, but only a couple of times, I’ve met people who prejudged me on my skin color.”
Mims said that once, while going door-to-door collecting canned goods for the Missouri Food Bank, she was subjected to being stereotyped. A woman who answered the door at one home commented that Mims should not have to collect cans of food anymore because President Barack Obama was in office. She refused to donate any cans, Mims said.
“I was tempted to say, 'They aren’t going to me!'” Mims said.
As the five CARE members marched up Hitt Street toward Lowry Mall, MU students who were passing by threw side-glances in the group's direction. Some smiled as they passed. Others kept their eyes forward, not acknowledging the group's display.
The marchers stopped by the statue of Thomas Jefferson next to MU’s Francis Quadrangle so that Miller could speak. One passerby paused to remove his headphones as he walked past but didn't stop.
“Forty-six years ago, a man stood on the steps of Lincoln Memorial and said ‘I have a dream,’" Miller said. "That dream is not realized when Muslims are being labeled terrorists. That dream is not realized when blacks are disappearing around campuses and Native Americans are practically non-existent. We are here because something is still wrong in America.”
The march ended with a group hug and goodbyes among the participants.
“Overall, I felt (the march) was a success," Miller said. "Anytime you can get any number of people together, whether it's one or 1,000, for a cause is a success. I’m very proud of my group and what they did. I am very pleased.”