Communities march for justice

Xavier students join Norwood community in blessing new banner

by Seth ellis, staff writer
Newswire photo by Erik Maahs
Norwood community members and families as well as Xavier students and faculty all parade down Cleneay Avenue, past the Health United Building, on their way to Bellarmine Chapel. They are trailed by a line of cars.

An overcast Cleneay Avenue was enlivened Sunday afternoon as a crowd of sign-yielding adults and children — trailed by a parade of honking cars — made their way from the Family Dollar to Bellarmine Chapel.

The crowd of 50 to 60 included Xavier students and staff, as well as members of the Norwood community. The groups came together to bless the new Black Lives Matter banner now placed outside of Bellarmine Chapel, to celebrate Black History Month and to continue speaking out against racism.

After Bellarmine Chapel’s banner which read “RACISM IS A SIN: BLACK LIVES MATTER” was slashed in last month’s racially biased incident, the Bellarmine staff quickly ordered a replacement.

However, the plans for a blessing ceremony quickly evolved, in part thanks to Hollie Johnson of Xavier’s education department and Pastor Sonny James of Keep It Real Worldwide Ministries in Norwood.

“I believe that God used Hollie Johnson to really be the catalyst to bridge Xavier and Norwood,” James said.

The two’s relationship resulted in a combined event with Xavier and the surrounding community.

The parade which James had been organizing was the first of its kind in Norwood’s history. He was planning it as part of the events occurring in Norwood this February in honor of Black History Month.

Xavier faculty and staff in attendance echoed the duality of the event.

“The idea was to blend the celebration of Black History Month and the re-dedication of the banner,” Interfaith Program Director and Jewish Chaplain Rabbi Jennifer Lewis said. 

Alongside Muslim Chaplain Tala Ali, Lewis brought her interfaith expertise to the event, emphasizing that racism is something which manifests itself across all faith traditions. 

“Our Ignatian Jesuit values speak to solidarity and kinship; so too do other traditions value that concept, and that concept of community,” Lewis continued.

The parade began in Family Dollar parking lot and the group migrated to Xavier’s campus. The event concluded outside the snow-covered chapel with a small prayer service and the blessing of the new banner.

Several Xavier students attended Sunday’s march.

“I wanted to come out here and support the Black student community, Black faculty and staff, and make it clear that the issue of systemic racism within Xavier’s community does not go unnoticed,” sophomore Caroline Dziubek said.

She also mentioned the recent bias incident as another reason for her participation in the parade.

At the blessing, multiple speakers offered prayers and short speeches, including James, staff from Xavier’s Center for Faith and Justice, a couple of Xavier students and a Norwood City Council member, among others.

This collaboration was notable for both Xavier and the surrounding community.

“It’s a way of reaching out of our ivory tower, out of our academic world” Lewis said. “It’s building those one-on-one relationships (that’s important).”

Lewis even pointed out that this whole event came to be because of the one-on-one relationship shared between James and Johnson.

This significance was not lost on students either.

“I think it’s absolutely important that Xavier is making a point to reach out to these communities and making connections with them,” Dzuibek stated.

James, however, believed that Xavier could do more to support the Norwood community.

“This community needs (Xavier’s) direct commitment,” James explained. “We have to intentionally and purposefully dedicate our minds and our hearts and go out of our way to look for opportunities to work together, and it starts at the top.”

“I’m not out here trying to be a rabble rouser, I’m not out here trying to cause conflict,” James affirmed. “But, (Black people) are not going to the back of the bus anymore. It’s just not gonna happen.”