On Friday, Aug. 28, Louisiana Ragin’ Cajun athletes marched in Lafayette to demand social justice. The date was significant for two reasons, as it was one week after the killing of Trayford Pellerin in Lafayette, along with being 57 years after Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech.
Participants of the march included football, soccer, volleyball and both basketball teams. The athletes held signs with phrases such as “support our movement” and “I have no value without a jersey.”
The march was organized by students themselves and spearheaded by the football team’s leadership council.
T.J. Wisham, a member of the council, believed Pellerin’s death could have been avoided.
“It shouldn’t have been a tragedy,” said Wisham. “So this hits home. This hits home for me because I’ve been racially profiled. This hits home for so many African Americans in our world because this is the reality we have to face.”
He also said the team wants to see change happen.
"This is one of our first plans of action in our campaign as a team to continue to push on things that we want to change and bring light to situations," said Wisham.
Wisham added that the football team is not done demanding justice and will hold more events next month.
A similar student-led march was held on LSU’s campus on Aug. 28 as well, after being inspired by professional athletes.
The Lafayette march started near Cajun Field and carried on to a Lafayette Police Station on University Avenue.
Back in June, Brandi Williams from the women’s basketball team said she believed the Black Lives Matter movement is not just a trend.
“I think what happened to George Floyd is definitely a lasting movement. Now that everyone is standing together and fighting as one including all races it’s making a bigger difference,” Williams said.
Williams added how she personally feels: “As a Black woman, I am more aware of my surroundings than a white woman. When I go run in the mornings I always have to watch my back or make sure I don’t run in certain parts of the neighborhoods where I don’t feel comfortable running. All lives aren’t gonna matter until Black lives matter too,” Williams wrote in a written statement to The Vermilion.
Williams said there is a way that people can make an impact.
“People should use their voices more, especially the younger generation, by being more involved. It could be in your community, school, jobs, etc,” she said. Athletes have certainly made that impact with their march.
Football Head Coach Billy Napier along with the entire football coaching staff was in support of the march.
“We've made a lot of progress in our country, but our work is not done. I think sports has an opportunity, in particular, to be a great example, to present a united front and to help galvanize our campuses or communities,” Napier said.
"This was a student-organized event, but that's what makes it significant and that's what I'm proud of," football coach Billy Napier said. "Other university administrators joined the march as well.”