Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Week ends, legacy lives on


Students hold up a photo of Dr. King during the CommUNITY Peace March & Vigil Monday, Jan. 16 on Main St. 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a husband, father and Civil Rights activist who always had a target on his back. For example, the FBI had been monitoring him since the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Although he is no longer with us, he continues to create a better future, through the work of his children and those who believe in him.

King was an African American Baptist minister and activist, and one of the most prominent leaders in the Civil Rights Movement in the late 1950s and 1960s. King was an educated man who enrolled at Morehouse College at the age of 15. He graduated with a B.A. in sociology at the age of 19. By 25-years-old, he earned a Ph.D. at Boston University.

King not only advanced in his career but became a husband to Coretta Scott, who he met at Boston University. They married in the early 1950s. In 1955, the couple gave birth to their first-born child, Yolanda Denise King. She died in 2007 due to a chronic heart condition.

King and Scott continued to expand the family and have a total of four children. As a father, Dr. King spent most of his time speaking at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala. Furthermore, Dr. King was arrested nearly 30 times throughout his career. He was arrested for acts of civil disobedience and unfair charges.

His legacy will continue to fight the nonviolent struggle of “resistance against racial segregation and anti-blackness in the United States,” Forbes contributor Maia Niguel Hoskin said.

King was a graduate of Morehouse and an ordained Baptist mister. Central Michigan University Executive Director of Student Inclusion and Diversity James Span Jr. followed in his footsteps.

In the early 2000s, Span, who is also an ordained minister, served as an associate minister and preached sermons at Second Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Atlanta. He was also the director of Christian Education at the Baptist church.

“I think this role helped me relate to a variety of people including students, staff, faculty and ministers,” Span Jr. said. “It’s mainly about meeting and addressing the needs of people, whether it’s spiritual (or) physical, to increase their relationship with Christ or to improve the quality of their life.”

“The more we collaborate with students who are willing to continue to work and learn more about each other, we thrive as a student body to make our campus open for everyone.”

A recap of the week

On Jan. 16, Multicultural Academic Student Services (MASS) began Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. week with a CommUNITY Peace Brunch in Finch Fieldhouse. The brunch showcased a performance from CMU’s Central Christ Choir, finalists of the Oratorical Contest and keynote speaker Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Reneé Watson, who reminisced on King’s legacy. 

Student Inclusion and Diversity Director James Span, Jr. presents the winners of the PNC Bank High Achievers Award at the MLK CommUNITY Peace Brunch Monday, Jan. 16 in Finch Fieldhouse. 

That afternoon, students and faculty participated in the CommUNITY Peace March and Vigil, which began at the Bovee University Center and ended downtown on Broadway Street. Despite the rain and cold, the community celebrated King and all he stood for.

On Jan. 17, Feminista Jones was a keynote speaker in the French Auditorium. Jones, an activist, author, educator and retired social worker, said primary and secondary education today does not give Dr. King the recognition he deserves. She encouraged CMU students to make a difference, like Dr. King, Rosa Parks and Malcolm X did in college.

On Jan 18, the director, play-writer and producer Ira Knight presented the play “From Myth to Man." This one-man-play featured actor John Ivey as King. During the audience talk-back, Knight said that he and Ivey are planning to create a play based on story of Fredrick Douglass. 

The student basketball team gets ready for the second half of the game with a group huddle at the MLK Charity Basketball game, Friday, Jan. 20th, in the Student Activity Center.

On Jan 20, MASS hosted the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Charity Basketball game. Staff won against CMU students with a final score of 49-43. 

MASS raised over $200 and collected canned-food items for the Student Food Pantry. Students and staff who played in the game said they all shared a common goal -- to have fun while spreading awareness for the cause.

Alfred Harper III, assistant director of MASS and organizer of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. week said he felt great that each event he planned held its own purpose with the level of engagement from the CMU community.

“When I think about the theme for MLK and the year 2023, it would start with me cultivating a loved community mindset to transform unjust systems," Harper said. “There was a diverse population of students who came out not only to the brunch but to listen to Feminista Jones and to watch the play with Ira Knight.

“The more we collaborate with students who are willing to continue to work and learn more about each other, we thrive as a student body to make our campus open for everyone."