A relatively new student group at the University of Minnesota Duluth called Black Men Serving Excellence is utilizing a bond of brotherhood to show up in the community and collectively stand up against racial injustice.

Along with their group adviser, Marcus McLin, the students have planned a peaceful protest and march against police brutality and other racial injustices for 5 p.m. on Wednesday. The event will begin at UMD's Malosky Stadium.

"It's another way to make more people aware and understand what's really going on," said Chamere Thomas, an executive member of the student group.

With the acknowledgement of racial injustices in the country now on constant display in media and entertainment, Dayvia Gbor, student president of Black Men Serving Excellence, said it's no longer an option to hide from those realities.

"We've got to keep pushing that awareness and challenging people to take initiative," Gbor said. "It can start with each person finding one thing to help better the situation."

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Black Men Serving Excellence formed in the fall of 2019 and is still in the process of becoming an officially recognized student group. Gbor said the group's mission is to strive for excellence in anything they do, while cultivating young Black leaders.

One of the group's core goals is to impact young people in the community through volunteering and speaking to middle school- and high school-aged young people. So far the group has volunteered for an after-school program at Laura MacArthur Elementary School and partnered with the university's men's basketball team to put on a youth basketball camp on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Michael Kirkendoll, another executive member of the group, said he hopes the group's presence in the community can have an anti-racist influence on the narratives local youth grow up understanding.

"Just like they say all the time, kids aren't born racist," Kirkendoll said. "No one's born racist. You're taught to be racist."

From left: Black Men Serving Excellence group adviser and defensive backs football coach Marcus McLin and students and executive members Michael Kirkendoll, Chamere Thomas and group president Dayvia Gbor pose for a portrait Tuesday, Sept. 15, at Malosky Stadium. The UMD student group hopes its members will serve as role models on campus and in the community. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)
From left: Black Men Serving Excellence group adviser and defensive backs football coach Marcus McLin and students and executive members Michael Kirkendoll, Chamere Thomas and group president Dayvia Gbor pose for a portrait Tuesday, Sept. 15, at Malosky Stadium. The UMD student group hopes its members will serve as role models on campus and in the community. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)

Having a positive relationship with oneself is the first step toward having that kind of an influence over young people.

McLin, the group's adviser and UMD defensive backs coach with the football program, emphasized that the peaceful protest is for everyone, not just UMD campus community members, and that together, the community can change what happens in Duluth.

"Stuff does happen here. Racism does happen. Microaggression does happen," McLin said. "Police brutality, police profiling does happen here. We hear that and we understand it, but we're not going to shy away from it. We're going to stand up to it. Our voices are going to continue to be heard. We want things to be better."

The group asks that attendees wear masks, maintain physical distance and bring signs and water.

Currently, the group consists of about 15 members, though it is always accepting more. While many of the members are student athletes on the university's football and men's basketball teams, the group said its membership is open to non-athletes as well.

Black Men Serving Excellence isn't the only student group at UMD centered on fostering relationships among young Black students. The Black Student Association brings students together to appreciate and raise awareness for Black history and culture, while working to improve the conditions on campus for Black students.