Merriweather Reflects on Civil Rights trip

Kaevon Merriweather has left his mark on the Iowa football program, both on and off the field.

The senior safety has been a standout player, starting twenty games thus far in career. In many ways it’s off the field where he has made perhaps an even bigger impact.

Back in June of 2020, the redshirt sophomore was one of the most impactful voices on social media and within the Iowa program as they dealt with issues involving racial inequality.

While he was always a vocal leader as a high school athlete, this was the first time he felt the need to speak out at the University of Iowa and his voice was heard.

“I was really surprised,” he said at Big Ten Media Day in Indianapolis. “I said what I said and put my phone down and then came back later and there were hundreds of likes and retweets.”

Merriweather was also one of the players who spoke at an outdoor press event the following week to discuss the state of the program.

That served as a springboard to his next project.

This past February, Merriweather was one of the driving forces within the team as players produced educational content highlighting African American leaders during Black History Month. The video series was shared on various social media platforms and generated thousands of views from Iowa fans and beyond.

“I thought about the video series back in November or December and brought it up to Brodrick Binns about doing it for Black History Month. I thought we actually needed to talk about what African Americans have brought to our society and our nation.”

This past year, the Iowa media selected Merriweather to be honored with the Duke Slater Golden Gavel Award, which is presented to the player who is not only cooperative with the local media, but exhibits professional integrity in all interactions. There were a lot of great options, but Merriweather was an easy choice.

In many ways, Merriweather is the total package. He’s an outstanding football player, leader, and citizen. Don’t let me tell you that, his teammates recognized him as one of ten junior on the Players Council last season and he’s a lock to be on there again this season.

All of this led to the Belleville, MI native to be selected as one of one hundred Big Ten student-athletes to be a part of the “Big Life Series” within the Big Ten Conference. Merriweather was joined by football teammate Logan Lee, track and field athlete Armando Bryson, volleyball player Amiya Jones, and women’s golfer Manuela Lizarazu.

The group spent July 15-17 in Alabama living and learning about the historic march from Selma to Montgomery that took place in 1965.

The United States had passed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, which eliminated discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. But, the struggled continued and led by Dr. Martin Luther King, who was seeking improvement of voting rights, particularly in southern states, a group planned to march the 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama. They were met with severe resistance on March 7, 1965, a day that became known as “Bloody Sunday.” Future congressmen John Lewis was severely beaten by Alabama state troopers, as were many of the other 600 who were marching for voting rights as the crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

This trip provided Merriweather with the opportunity to listen to and speak with people who took part in the march for voting rights.

“It was an incredible trip and opportunity,” he said. “What I appreciated the most was being able to talk to the people who were actually part of the march. I talked to people who were part of that Bloody Sunday. Hearing their experience and what they went through and then translating that back to 2020 and the marches that were going on.”

The message from Merriweather and those who he learned from in Alabama was so much progress has been made, but there’s more work yet to be done. Merriweather has extended family who live in Alabama and it was particularly moving for him to think about them as he walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.

“Being an African American man and having family in Alabama and thinking that maybe I had some family members who potentially could have been a part of that march was crazy to me.”

Merriweather says he has spoken to some of these teammates about what this experience and trip was like for him. It certainly had an impact on him and he shared that it was the greatest non-football experience of his time at Iowa.

The next step is that he and Lee plan to share with the entire team what their experience was like and what they learned during their time in Alabama learning about the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s.

“I want to convince my teammates to go down to Montgomery and Selma and learn for themselves like I was able to do.”

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