Justice Jog: A strong connection to belonging, unity

During Black History Month on Heidelberg’s campus, observances and celebrations have highlighted cultural expression, participation, and making information more accessible. Events organized by Aaron Nelson, ’10, director of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging, have been designed to meet people where they’re at. The campus community participated in World Read Aloud Day, a “couch talk” discussion of current issues affecting the Black community, movie viewings and discussions, and Shades of Blackness, an intersectional display of historic and contemporary influential Black figures from across the diaspora.

The culminating event was Thursday’s Justice Jog. The brainchild of Aaron Nelson, the Justice Jog began last year as a way to connect students mentally and emotionally with the injustices they’ve heard about, and with the community members who can help them feel like they belong not just at Heidelberg, but within the greater Tiffin and Seneca communities.

The Justice Jog began in the University Commons with an encouraging and mindful word from Cassandra Tucker, the president of the Fremont branch of the NAACP. “As soon as I realized there was no jogging involved,” she joked with the students, “I knew I had to be a part of this. What you are all doing is so important.” She worked through affirmations with the students as they prepared for what would be a serious afternoon and evening of learning.

After her talk, students traveled in groups all around campus, learning about tragedies and injustices. While the focus of the Justice Jog is to discuss some of the more notorious cases of racism and police brutality that have plagued our society, this year, Heidelberg’s Center for Survivor Empowerment united with Aaron to highlight instances of sexual assault and domestic violence. In all featured situations, students learned the facts of the case or the first-person memories and emotions of the survivors, understanding the greater societal issues at play as well as the jarring impact that such injustices had on the victims, their loved ones, and their community at large.

Knowledge of these problems and their place in our history is the first step toward a solution. Aaron creatively brings step two into play: connecting students and those at risk with community resources. The final stop on the Jog was a community resource fair, where students are incentivized with raffle prizes to get out of their shells and make the connections that could one day be life-changing if they find themselves in need. Inside Wickham Great Hall, local favorites only a short walk away, like Washington Street Outfitters or Soul

Boutique, are situated beside the Humane Society, local churches, visiting military organizations and student organizations built to offer support. This year, over 20 vendors claimed their spot at the table, and visibly showed up to express their love and willingness to support Heidelberg students.

Thank you to all who attended and all who participated in this year’s wildly successful Justice Jog. We’re looking forward to seeing you again next year! 

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