Thirty-five students participated in a “kindness walk” outside the Arkansas Union on Sunday organized by members of a nonprofit dedicated to fostering goodwill and mutual understanding.
Sophomores Lukas Losen and Grace Andersen led the walk in conjunction with SevenDays, a Greater Kansas City-based nonprofit organization with a stated mission of overcoming hate by promoting kindness through education and dialogue.
Jill Andersen, director of SevenDays, said one of the nonprofit’s main missions is expanding its outreach. The group’s annual “kindness walk” typically takes place only in Kansas City, Missouri — the organization is based in nearby Merriam, Kansas — but Losen and Grace decided to bring a version of it to the UofA this year.
“We’re trying to bring the idea of SevenDays here since it’s mostly just in Kansas right now,” Grace said. “Not many people know about it, (and) we figured the best thing to do was the walk to spread the idea of kindness and understanding to help decrease hatred.”
Losen and Grace are former members of the Kindness Youth Leadership Team, a group of high school students in the Kansas City area who organize kindness-focused events in their communityand can continue their work at their respective universities after graduation, Jill said.
Losen thinks fostering equality is an important element of SevenDays’ message, and his goal for the UA walk was to raise awareness, he said.
“We just wanted to see how many people we could get out there,” Losen said. “In my words, SevenDays is equality — treating everybody with equality no matter what religion you are, (whether) you're gay, straight, Black, or white, it doesn't matter. Everyone is a person and deserves to be treated equally.”
SevenDays came to be after a gunman, motivated by antisemitism, killed three people outside a Jewish community center in Overland Park, Kansas. Among the victims were Losen’s brother, Reat Underwood, and his grandfather, William Corporon. In the wake of the tragedy, Mindy Corporon, Lukas and Reat’s mother, founded SevenDays.
“Before the organization was started or the tragedy happened, I kind of lived a very sheltered life,” Grace said. “It was a very pivotal moment in my life realizing that there are people out there who hate people for what seems like no reason.”
Losen and Grace hope to make the walk an annual event and bring awareness of the organization to the UofA, they said.
“The best-case scenario is that people want to make a change and stand up for people that are different from them,” Jill said. “In the worst-case scenario where somebody already hates another group of people based on whatever that category is, we've planted a seed that helps them think they no longer hate that group.”