Hundreds march to downtown Mount Pleasant to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.
Snowfall did not stop hundreds of students and community members from celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
Central Michigan University kicked off its annual tradition for the holiday -- taking off classes and using the day to celebrate unity. Students and community members dedicated Jan. 15 to King’s vision and the ongoing fight against human inequality.
The CommUnity Peace March & Vigil commenced at 3 p.m. with participants gathering in the Bovee University Center Rotunda before marching into the snowfall and winter temperature of 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Hundreds marched down South Main Street to downtown Mount Pleasant.
“I’m out here supporting a movement,” said Flint junior Brandon York as he marched. “We’re hoping to make his legacy continue to improve.”
York was marching alongside Grand Blanc sophomore Isreal Mardlin, who believed himself to be battling the racial injustices that have plagued the U.S. since its beginning.
“I’m just out here trying to do my part to eradicate the issue,” Mardlin said. “We have a nice (community) of people at Central who are willing to stand for different types of movements.”
Prior to marching, the two attended the MLK CommUnity Peace Brunch that kicked the day at 9 a.m. in Finch Fieldhouse.
Saginaw senior Michael Johnson said it was a meeting of "good food, good people and good purpose."
The morning attracted its usual attendance of about 700 people and welcomed Travis Hall of Life Church International in Atlanta, Georgia back to Mount Pleasant. Hall served as Lead Pastor of Faith Community Church for a decade.
At the brunch, Hall honored King's religious background and the role Christianity plays in eliminating racism, social injustice and the negligence of exclusivity -- the practice of uniting people from society's margins.
The brunch got students out of bed, straying far away from the vacation day ideology that often appears in an academic environment.
“I think it’s extremely important not to treat this day like a vacation day off of school because without MLK himself and many others during the Civil Rights (movement) era, the nation that we live in would be different today,” said Lansing senior Mariah Arnold, the social media coordinator of CMU's Black Lives Matter chapter.
Arnold spent most of her day in the Mary Ellen Brandell Volunteer Center tying together fleece blankets to be handed out to the mid-Michigan homeless community as part of the MLK Day of Service. She said the national holiday is all about serving others.
The center welcomed students to open sessions with Safer Sex Patrol, The David Garcia Project, Bookmarks for Literacy, Cards for the Future and the Fleece Blanket Project.
Arnold said by serving the community she pays King back for the way he has served her.
"(He's still) opening doors of opportunity for me as a black woman and how his beliefs still influence me as a young, passionate activist in 2018."
Monday's events are part of a week long series to honor Martin Luther King Jr. which kicked off Jan. 14 with Miss Black and Gold Scholarship Pageant hosted by Central Michigan University’s chapter of King’s brotherhood, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
The week concludes with the MLK Staff and Student Charity Basketball Game at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 19 in the Student Activity Center.
“One of my favorite events has always been the (march and vigil) because it’s an opportunity for students, faculty and administration and members of the community to come together and peacefully march through campus,” Arnold said. “Similar to what (Martin) did in his time.”
Arnold has attended events for MLK Celebration Week since her freshman year at CMU. She said the Multicultural Academic Student Services does a phenomenal job planning and hosting events.
Grand Rapids sophore Tre’Von Rucker, president of Motions, a Registered Student Organization that helped sponsor the event, said it’s important for students to treat MLK Day as bigger than themselves and a vital part of continuing King’s dream, rather than a vacation day.
“The events taking place on campus (provide) opportunities for CMU’s community to come together and not only remember Dr. King, but to also follow his wishes and dreams he had for this country,” Rucker said.
Senior Dezmond Earle, of Ontario, Canada, saw the march as a stance in a fight that continues globally against inclusion.
“As the years go by and things become more racially equal, people tend to forget how things were before," Earle said. "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.”
Jonathan Glenn, MASS assistant director of scholarships and mentoring, gave a speech in the Town Center, 101 North Main St. during the vigil. He said he truly 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.