More than 200 people assembled outside Grinnell Hall Wednesday night to ask the question, “Can I live?”
Students chanted and marched through campus to celebrate the second annual Can I Live rally, an event dedicated to living life and overcoming adversity. The march was followed by a three-hour presentation that showcased different speakers and performers celebrating through rapping, poetry, dancing and talks about empowering women and appreciating life itself.
The event also presented powerful stories about overcoming hardships such as growing up with an abusive mother, being a multiple rape victim, surviving suicide and facing the hardships of being a handicapped mother in college.
Some of the emotional stories left the speakers in tears as they discussed the pain they endured and overcame. The crowd helped support each speaker who found it hard to continue his or her stories and followed every story with thunderous applause as well as some standing ovations.
Before the march began, a moment of silence was given to Treyvon Martin, a 17-year-old Florida resident who was shot to death Feb. 26 by a Neighborhood Watch leader, George Zimmerman.
Ryan Reed, a senior studying public relations from Homewood-Flossmoor, led the rally outside Grinnell Hall.
Reed, a Can I Live co-founder, said the number of participants increased dramatically from last year’s rally. He said it is a powerful event and affects everyone involved.
Reed said he hopes the event helps people open up more and talk about their problems instead of keeping it to themselves.
Corey Brooks, pastor of New Beginnings Church in Chicago, spoke at the rally. Brooks said the event was strong and greatly influenced the crowd. He said people should celebrate life by being there for each other and participating in people’s lives.
Brooks spoke about revelations he had from a fundraiser he held to tear down an old motel that housed drug users and prostitutes across from his church. To raise money and awareness, he stayed on the motel’s roof for 94 days until the money was raised.
Brooks said he enjoyed being a part of the event and will returm next year if invited.
Participants were encouraged to talk to representatives from the Counseling Center, Saluki Cares, Saluki Lifesavers, Jackson County Health Department and others who were at the rally if they wanted to discuss something.
Crowd members participated in the event for different reasons.
Adeleke Koleosho, a junior from Chicago studying electrical engineering, said he attended the event to support the people in charge of it.
Koleosho, the African Student Council’s vice president, said he thinks everyone took the event seriously and hopes it helps more people open up about their problems. He said he plans to attend next year’s rally.
Other members of the crowd came to support diversity.
Mallory Robertson, a mother of two, came to support the event for her young son who has autism.
Robertson said she hopes this celebration of life and its differences will cause people to be more open-minded and help her son have an easier time growing up. She said she thinks the event was taken seriously and plans on participating next year.