A fraternity at Miami University is trying to break the stereotypes of Greek life by hosting a walk that will support the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
The Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity holds its first Freedom Walk on Friday and Saturday. The 40-mile walk will follow the historical Underground Railroad route that was traveled by enslaved individuals in the 19th century who sought freedom.
“We will be taking a symbolic walk from the Northern Kentucky area to Miami University in Oxford,” says Alex Tyree, vice president of the fraternity. “As we walk, we will be visiting historical sites from the Underground Railroad.”
Eight members of the fraternity and several alumni will start their journey at the Margaret Garner Historical Marker in Covington and end at the Freedom Summer Memorial in Oxford.
The group, which plans to walk 10 miles on the first day and 30 miles on the second day, will be stopping at “safe houses” as they travel along the route.
“A ‘safe house’ is a house that provided runaway slaves with food and shelter as they escaped to freedom,” Tyree says. “And as we walk, we will encounter a lot of these types of houses.”
Some of the safe houses the fraternity will visit include the Zebulon Strong House (currently called the Six Acres Bed and Breakfast), Spring Grove Cemetery (the famous gravesite of safe house homeowner Levi Coffin) and the Samuel and Sally Wilson House.
The fraternity hopes that by hosting and participating in this symbolic walk they will educate the public on the landmarks that surround the region.
“We want to honor our past by highlighting the route that these brave people took to freedom,” says Callen Reese, community service chair for this event.
“People are not aware that there are several historical spots in this area, and it's important that people know how important their city was to the Underground Railroad.”
Also, the fraternity wants to show the community a different side of the Miami University Greek life.
Last spring the Miami University Chapter of the Alpha Xi Delta sorority received a two-year suspension after they behaved inappropriately at a spring formal at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. During the formal, members of sorority and their dates were accused of urinating over the building, defacing and vomiting in restrooms, swearing at staff members and trying to steal bottles of alcohol from the bar.
One guest was even caught trying to urinate on the 19th-century Slave Pen exhibit and later in a freight elevator where the caterer had stored food.
Although the university apologized to the Freedom Center for the incident and punished the sorority, members of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity still feel the need to show the community that not all Greeks are the same.
“Even though we were not involved in the unfortunate events that happened last year, we still feel we need to uplift the image of the Greeks at Miami University,” Reese says. “Being Greek is not just about partying and drinking. Being Greek is about serving your community.”
Freedom Center representatives have said they've forgiven sorority members for their behavior and want to concentrate on what a remarkable thing members of Kappa Alpha Psi are doing.
“The real heroes of this are the members of Kappa Alpha Psi,” says Kim Robinson, the Freedom Center's advancement director. “These young men are doing something courageous, mature and generous. They're helping the public see the brighter side of Miami University fraternities and sororities and are a testament to the character and leadership of Miami Greeks.”
The brothers of Kappa Alpha Psi are asking the public to donate $1 a mile or $40 to the Freedom Center for this event, with a goal of raising $5,000. One-hundred percent of the donations will be used to further the Freedom Center’s education programs.
“These programs are designed to educate and inspire people of all ages to work alongside the Freedom Center to help end the ‘unfreedoms’ of racism, illiteracy, genocide, hunger, tyranny and slavery that still exists in the world today,” Robinson says.
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