Barry Schreier bikes 550 miles to raise money and awareness for UI Afro House

Barry Schreier, director of UI Counseling Service is pledging his support to Black and African American students at the University of Iowa by biking from Iowa City to Northport, Wisconsin.


Ryan Adams

University of Iowa Counseling Services Director Barry Schreier is seen in his office at the Westlawn Building on December 12, 2019. Schreier recently was awarded the Association of University and College Counseling Center’s President’s Award for Meritorious Service in the National Field of Campus Mental Health.

Mary Hartel, News Reporter

Barry Schreier, director of the campus University of Iowa Counseling Service, left Iowa City on for Northport Wisconsin on his bike on July 25. The ride is estimated to be more than 550 miles and take up to five days.

Before leaving, Schreier created a GoFundMe page, pledging to donate all proceeds from the ride to the University of Iowa Afro-American Cultural Center. The page aims to reach $10,000.

“The Afro House was established in 1968. It’s the first of the cultural houses, and the primary reason was for Black students to have a space on campus,” said Shirleena Terrell, coordinator for the Afro-American Cultural Center. “During that [time] Black students weren’t allowed to live in the dorms and really move on campus so they actually advocated for themselves to have a safe space, a space where their culture could be reflected, a space where they could really be themselves and authentic and just gather as a community.”

Amid the current Black Lives Matter movement, Terrell said people looking to support the Black and African American communities should continually seek out ways to educate themselves and never turn down a volunteer opportunity.

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“The more funds we can raise the better,” said Schreier, who’s completed similar rides twice.

Schreier rode to the home of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana in 2017, and went to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 2018. Each fundraiser donated all money raised to the UI’s and destination schools’ LGBTQ resource centers, Schreier said.

Schreier, an avid cyclist, said he just decided one day to ride his bike to go see his friends in West Lafayette, where he used to live when he worked at Purdue University.

“And then I thought, as long as I’m doing this, maybe I could use this as a vehicle to sort of support those communities on our campus that often have the least resources and help our students with what can be the most marginalized identities,” Schreier said. “And I thought, this is a way for me to leverage the privileges I have, which often can be financial, and provide support and help for at least in those cases our LGBTQ students, and in this particular case our African American and Black student staff and faculty.”

Schreier noted the fundraiser is a way for people that hold racial privilege or financial resources to take action.

“This is really about raising money for Afro House,” Schreier said. “It’s about the services Afro House does and it’s about turning out and using the resources we have to support our Black and African American students right now.”

Once people donate to the cause, they will be added to an email chain of updates and photos from Schreier’s journey, he said, noting that cyclists cannot take the most direct routes because they have to remain off the interstate.

Schreier added that he will take extra precaution and mitigation measures to ensure safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said he’s been encouraging everyone, even those that aren’t Iowa-based, to consider donating or taking action, maintaining that “helping anyone helps everyone.”

RELATED: UI Diversity Councils dissatisfied with UI leaders’ Black Lives Matter response

As of the third day of his ride on Monday, the GoFundMe had raised just over $6,000 and garnered more than 350 shares.

Schreier said he hopes the fundraiser will motivate others and help them realize that simply being a good person isn’t enough.

“… It’s got to be more focused on what actions can be taken to make changes on our campus,” Schreier said.

Tabitha Wiggins, associate director of Multicultural and International Student Support and Engagement at the UI, said campus resource centers have done a number of things in response to the current social unrest across the state and country regarding racial injustice.

Wiggins said her department has released a solidarity statement, facilitated a three-part series on racial justice and inequity, and continually shown support for the digital Healing Spaces program created by Ruth Kahssai, director of Justice and Equity for Undergraduate Student Government, and Maria Bruno, executive director of Belonging and Inclusion.

Wiggins added that Multicultural and International Student Support and Engagement is currently creating a fund for Black students, while continuing to engage with different communities and find new ways to provide extra support.

Wiggins, who worked with Schreier to coordinate donating the money from his first two bike rides to the UI Pride House, said taking the funds and giving them to the Afro House this year feels encouraging and appropriate given the current climate.

“I think that it’s something that he doesn’t have to do, but we’re grateful that he is doing it and we just want to be good stewards over the funds that we are able to get from the bike ride,” Wiggins said. “I think we can get to $10,000. I reshared it last night and people are still learning about it so I think the more people that can share it and get the message out the closer we’ll get to 10,000.”