Hawkeyes’ Merriweather enjoys ‘surreal’ trip | College Sports

INDIANAPOLIS – On the field, nothing has topped his college experience for Kaevon Merriweather than being part of an Iowa football team which played in the Big Ten Championship Game last season after winning West Division title.

The only thing that comes close off the field is the incredible journey Merriweather took earlier this month.

The safety was among 100 Big Ten student-athletes, coaches and administrators chosen to be part of the conference’s equality coalition, a group selected to make a trip to Selma and Montgomery, Ala., for an immersive and educational experience in communities that were at the center of civil rights movement more than a generation ago.

“It was all a little surreal, to be in places that had meant so much,” Merriweather said last week at the Big Ten kickoff.

Merriweather was joined on the trip by teammate Logan Lee and three other Hawkeyes, Armando Bryson from the track and field program, Amiya Jones from the volleyball team and women’s golfer Manuela Lizarazu.

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“It was eye opening,” Merriweather said. “Being an African-American and having family in Alabama and just thinking that I might have some family members who were potentially a part of it all, it was crazy to me.”

The group traveled to Alabama from July 15-17, joined there by similar groups from the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Pac-12.

On the first night in Montgomery, they listened to the words of Sheyann Webb-Christburg, an author and eyewitness to the Bloody Sunday attack in 1965, and viewed an episode of the documentary series “Eyes on the Prize.”

The following day, the group traveled to Selma and visited the First Baptist Church, where hundreds of students planned their days’ long walk from Selma to Montgomery.

The group took their own march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the site of the Bloody Sunday attack where a group led by Dr. Martin Luther King marched on that March day in 1965, a day when hundreds of individuals marching for improved voting rights were beaten by state troopers as they attempted to the cross the bridge.

The trip included visits to the Interpretive Center at Alabama State University where it was learned about how students impacted the civil rights movement as well as the Civil Rights Memorial Center and the Equal Justice Initiative Legacy Museum.

The group heard from the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative Legacy Museum, social justice attorney Bryan Stevenson, before forming smaller groups to discuss their experiences.

“What I appreciated the most was being able to talk to people who were actually part of the march. I spoke with people who were part of Bloody Sunday,” Merriweather said. “Listening to their experiences and what they went through and then translating it to 2020 and the marches that were going on.”

Merriweather walked away from the experience with an appreciation for the progress that has been made in the civil rights movement while understanding that more work needs to be done.

“It brought a lot of things into perspective,” Merriweather said.

Long before Merriweather began to think much about what it would be like to become the 20-game starter for the Hawkeyes that he is as he prepares for his ////////senior season in the Iowa secondary, he established himself as a team leader.

The ////////, Michigan native was among Hawkeyes who spoke up on social media when in the summer of 2020 Iowa players, past and present, spoke up about racial inequities within the Hawkeye program at that time.

Even then as a redshirt///////////////// sophomore, he sought solutions.

The number of responses he gathered on social media at that time surprised Merriweather, who learned at the time the power his words had.

“Before that, I think I was a pretty quiet, laid-back guy. I didn’t really use my voice,” Merriweather said.

He quietly discovered a voice and has used it while becoming one of the leaders on the team.

“I’m glad Kaevon is on our team, not just as a football player but as a person,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.

He was among Hawkeyes who spoke at a news conference at that time, discussing his thoughts on the matter and expressing a want to help the Iowa program work through the situation it found itself in.

Merriweather recently extended his energies to helping educate others.

He worked with members of Iowa’s video staff in producing video content for Black History Month that focused on African American leaders and the contributions they have made to society.

“They did an incredible job. It came together perfectly,” Merriweather said.

Shared on social media, the work was viewed by thousands.

“I thought about my series of videos back in November or December and showed it to Broderick Binns (then the director for diversity, equity and inclusion for the Iowa athletics department) about doing this in Black History Month. I thought we needed to talk about what African Americans have brought to our community and nation,” Merriweather said.

Binns agreed and the videos released earlier this year were the byproduct.

Merriweather appreciated that opportunity and the chance to join the Big Ten initiative earlier this month.

He has talked about the trip with some teammates since returning and hopes to join Lee in sharing the experience with the entire team in upcoming weeks.

“I want to convince some of my teammates to go down to Montgomery and Selma and learn like I was able to,” Merriweather said.

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