Communities unite to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.


Leaders of the Martin Luther King Jr. Peace March walk on Washington St. on Jan. 15.

Instead of taking the day off, Central Michigan University students and community members dedicated Jan. 15, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to his vision and the ongoing fight toward racial inequality. 

With a brunch, a day of service, and march and vigil — the national holiday was filled with activities that celebrated MLK's work.

Senior Dezmond Earle, of Canada, participated in the CommUnity Peace March. He stressed the importance of not forgetting history even as progress is achieved. 

"I think it’s important, and necessary, to keep that tradition and remember that this is what we fought for and that we need to keep fighting to keep that equality. The fight’s not over and I don’t think it’ll ever be over," Earle said. “As the years go by and things become more racially equal, people tend to forget how things were before."

Multicultural Academic Student Services (MASS) presents the week-long celebration Jan.14-19. Events are designed to honor King and discuss his mission to educate, serve his community and advance equal opportunity. 

The CommUnity Peace Brunch which kicked of Monday's events included speaker Bishop Travis Hall and a student oratorical contest.   

Port Huron senior Mateo Savedra, sophomore Nataia Calloway and Mount Clemens junior Matthew King were finalists in the oratorical contest. This year participants were asked to explore the influence of systematic, institutional racism and oppression on African-Americans since the civil rights movement. 

D'Wayne Jenkins, MASS assistant director for cultural programming and mentoring, said the brunch is one of the week's high points, as it attracted up to 700 participants. 

"The brunch is really one of my favorite events because it brings so many people together," Jenkins said, adding its combination of guest performances and student-led oratorical presentations tend to merge many people together in a very clear way. 

President Ross also spoke at the brunch, he said although equality continues to carry on, the fight for social justice must be fought on in the years to come. 

"As I look out into the crowd, I see many different faces from all walks of life coming together to honor a man who's dream lives on in us,"

The dream’s not fulfilled folks," he said, adding that Central must move foreword together to elimante judgements based off of race and difference.

Reflecting on MLK's legacy, Michala Webb, a student assistant for Pathways to Academic Student Success, a program for first generation students, said King's values have inspired not only community service on the national holiday, but every day. 

"I feel that the values you come across during this holiday are the values you should have anyway for every time you wake up for the day," Webb said. "Dr. King gives us the understanding that our life is not about just serving ourselves. It's about serving and building up others." 

Participants gathered in the Bovee University Center Monday afternoon before marching into the winter weather as part of the CommUnity Peace March & Vigil. Hundreds made their way down South Main Street to downtown Mount Pleasant.

The march concluded with a vigil where Jonathan Glenn, MASS assistant director of scholarships and mentoring, gave a speech in the Town Center. He said he believed in the beauty that "is in every single face" that participated in the march. 

"It is easier to be united, it's easier to love people (and) it's easier to be a Chippewa," Glenn said. "I'm going to remember this picture (because) it may be one of the best I will see this year. I see brothers and sisters that walked in the cold to remember the life of a man who gave his life so that we all could be here together." 

Mary Henley, director of MI Gear Up and Pathways to Academic Student Success in the Office for Institutional Diversity said the day aimed to be a "day on" as opposed to an ordinary vacation day, especially as students got up to explore the opportunities available to them. 

Other events celebrated throughout the week included a session by keynote speaker Michael Eric Dyson from Georgetown University, and a charity basketball game between volunteer CMU students and faculty members.

The MASS office is also responsible for presenting Black History Month at CMU. 

This month long series of events will be initiated with a Soup and Substance event, taking place from noon to 1 p.m. on Feb. 1 in the UC Terrace Rooms. This is a public soup luncheon joined by a substantive presentation tabled by the campus community. 

Henley said the MLK festivities prepare CMU to dive deeper into black history. 

"Those students who miss many of these (MLK Week) opportunities may know now that activities and events that are coming up for next month," Henley said. 

She said the MASS office continues to improve in the prestige and depth they celebrate both King's legacies and black history. 

"It is a time to celebrate our African American culture. It is a chance to educate and a chance to inform," Henley said. "It's a chance to look at the past, the present and where we're going." 

Henley said the official list of events and key speakers for Black Heritage Month will be released near the final week of January, as the MASS office makes the final touches to presenting an informative week. 

Flint senior Fredrick Fife II said he is looking forward to a special food taster event.

"It reminds (me) of home," Fife said. "The MASS office does a very good job at providing opportunities to submerge into different cultures, and I can submerge even more into my own." 

The food to be introduced will be "soul food," a traditional meal from Southern African American culture. 

Black Girls Rock will also take place from 6-8 p.m. Feb. 11 in the Bovee University Center. The event is an annual award show hosted by registered student organizations Phenomenal Brown Girl, Pinky Promises CMU and the Theta Theta Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.The gathering's purpose is to empower young women of color in a variety of fields such as academics, entrepreneurship, athletics and the arts. 


About Samantha Shriber

Samantha Shriber is a staff reporter at Central Michigan Life and is a Saint Clair Shores ...

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