COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Big Ten Conference announced on Thursday that it would be sponsoring a journey to Selma and Montgomery, Alabama for an immersive and educational experience at a key center of the civil rights movement. More than 100 student-athletes, coaches, administrators, conference staff and other stakeholders will be in attendance from July 15-17.
Representing Ohio State at the “Big Life Series: Selma to Montgomery” will be current student-athletes Jaydan Wood (women’s track & field), Donovan Hewitt (men’s gymnastics), Brooke Shields (cheer), Nina LaFlore (women’s soccer) and Zed Key (men’s basketball). The group will also include student-athletes, coaches and administrators from the ACC and Pac-12.
“We established the Big Life Series to help further prepare our student-athletes to impact the world beyond their athletic careers,” Big Ten Conference Commissioner Kevin Warren said. “Our trip to Selma and Montgomery is a first in a series of trips that our student-athletes, administrators, and members of the Big Ten Equality Coalition will take to inspire a meaningful dialogue about racial, social, religious, and cultural injustices in our nation. Big Life Series: Selma to Montgomery will empower our Big Ten Conference family to use their voices to drive change in their respective communities.”
The trip will begin Friday night in Montgomery with Sheyann Webb-Christburg, author and eyewitness of the original Bloody Sunday attack, serving as the keynote speaker and a viewing of an episode of the documentary series “Eyes on the Prize.”
“I am very excited to represent Ohio State in this monumental experience,” Hewitt said. “I hope to learn from experience and take what I learn into the world.”
The trip continues Saturday in Selma at the First Baptist Church, where hundreds of students coordinated by the Dallas County Voters League began their days’ long journey from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. The trip continues with a march across the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge before the group returns to Montgomery to visit a series of landmarks, museums, and learning centers.
“I am very excited to be heading down to Alabama with my peers and others from the Big Ten,” Shields said. “I know it will be a great experience and I’m looking forward to being where history was made.”
In Montgomery, the group will visit the Interpretive Center at Alabama State University, a historically black university (HBCU), to learn more about the profound impact that students had on the civil rights movement. The group will also visit the Civil Rights Memorial Center, the Alabama Department of Archives and History, and the award-winning Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) Legacy Museum, which provides a comprehensive overview of America’s history of racial injustice – from enslavement to mass incarceration. On Saturday evening, trip attendees will hear from EJI Legacy Museum founder and social justice lawyer Bryan Stevenson before forming small groups to discuss their experiences. The small group debrief sessions will be led by campus Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion directors.
“I’m feeling really excited to go on this trip,” Key said. “It is going to be a good experience for everyone.”
All member institutions will have conducted a series of introductory virtual meetings prior to traveling to Alabama to discuss the purpose of the trip and to prepare for their experience. Upon returning to campus after the trip, the Big Ten Conference will provide tools and opportunities for each attendee to convey their experiences about the trip to their peers.