7th annual Unity Walk brings NIU, DeKalb community together


Mingda Wu

DeKalb Police Chief David Byrd walks with NIU students at Tuesday’s Unity Walk.

By Jack Strunk

DeKALB — Students, faculty and DeKalb residents addressed the importance of belonging in the community Tuesday as they gathered  in the Huskie Den for the 7th annual Unity Walk.

“It’s important to come together in the name of unity and support coming together as a community,” said Darby McGowan, first-year elementary education major. 

The annual Unity Walk is a march through DeKalb to honor a sense of unity between NIU and the DeKalb community. The event’s opening speeches were pushed indoors to the Huskie Den due to weather. 

NIU President Lisa Freeman kicked off the event with a speech addressing the importance of community, especially during trying times such as the COVID-19 pandemic. “It reminds us that we are stronger together,” Freeman said. 

Mayor Cohen Barnes walks alongside NIU students at Tuesday’s Unity Walk. (Mingda Wu | NorthernStar)

Freeman also encouraged attendees to get vaccinated and  start conversations with and  connect with those around them during the walk. 

 Mayor Cohen Barnes shared Tuesday that he was happy that the attendees were making a “conscious decision to be together, walk together and talk together.”

Devlin Collins, president of the Student Government Association, gave the last speech before the walk began. He talked about the importance of uniting the NIU and DeKalb communities. 

“As a Huskie, this is your community too,” Collins addressed NIU students, encouraging them to be a part of the DeKalb community, even those who did not live in DeKalb. 

The Unity Walk shows that the different communities on campus can come together to show that they are unified, said Rob Brinkmann, dean for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

A’jah Davis, forward on the women’s basketball team, said she wants to break the stigma that athletes only talk to other athletes.

“We want to know our community,” Davis said. “A lot of people here support us, and we want to come out and support them too.”

Students participating in Tuesday’s Unity Walk with a sign that reads “Building unity through resistance.” (Mingda Wu | Northern Star)

Barnes said that diversity and community in DeKalb are important to him, especially as a lifelong DeKalb resident.

“People aren’t as kind to each other as they should be,” said David Byrd, DeKalb chief of police. “And a lot of it has to do with racial divides—racial lines—so this is an opportunity to blend that, and do a whole lot better, you know, this ratio of relationships and cultural differences.”