By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — The song “Amazing Grace” flowed through the lower level of Cosgrove Hall at St. Ambrose University on Jan. 16 to open a silent march to remember Civil Rights Week.
The annual silent march drew a crowd of nearly 100 despite snow flurries and single-digit temperatures.
Ryan Saddler, director of diversity at St. Ambrose, said the march is a great example of who we are. “We learn from interaction.” He spoke about slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., the bus boycotts in Montgomery, Ala., and the civil rights march at Selma, Ala., that occurred in the 1950s and ‘60s.
“Think about what it means to have civil liberties,” Saddler said. “St. Ambrose is a place to learn about social justice and intellect.” And it has for decades.
The students, faculty and staff at St. Ambrose walked to the corner of 11th and Ripley streets in Davenport — near the site of the former Toney’s Barber and Beauty Shop. There a program was held to honor local civil rights leaders such as the late Charles Toney, who is believed to have been the first black student enrolled at St. Ambrose.
Tim Phillips, associate vice president and dean of students, said that Charles Toney had a barber shop on one side and his wife, the late Ann Toney, operated a beauty shop on the other. This site is where informal meetings were held for civil rights activists.
Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, president of St. Ambrose, opened with words by Martin Luther King Jr. She said, “We remember and celebrate a man who did not accept evil, who did not cooperate with it, but who protested against it and helped change our society for the better. We are all the heirs of his work and his martyrdom. And like Mahatma Gandhi, St. Teresa of Calcutta, like Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, Dr. King put his life on the line, living out his commitment to non-violent social change.”
The group walked back to campus, arriving at the BeeHive in Ambrose Hall. Saddler thanked all those who participated. “I hope you had time to reflect on the thoughts and images” of the event. “Look around…. Get involved.”