The first Martin Luther King’ Jr. Day Reading began at noon Jan. 13 in the Student Union. The event was organized by the African American Student Affairs program and co-sponsored by the honors program. Students from both organizations read many of the influential speeches and letters that Dr. King penned. Articles were also available for the public, if they wished to read a speech or letter that moved them.
The purpose of this event was ‘To expose as many ears as possible to the words of Martin Luther King,’ said Honors Director Ernest Smith. By setting up a stage and PA system in the Student Union, it afforded a chance for Dr. King’s words to reach a large number of students, allowing them to reflect on their meaning to them. It was apparent that Dr. King’s words and actions elicit different emotions from people. Michael Griffin, African American Student Affairs Coordinator, feels that Dr. King was the ‘Most complete champion of social justice,’ constantly addressing difficult issues such as civil rights, war, and poverty. He said that he was also a ‘Modern blueprint of social leaders.’
One of the readers present to honor Dr. King was Dr. Robert Wallace, of the English Department, read a selection by Dr. King entitled ‘Beyond Vietnam.’ Dr. Wallace was actually at the Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967 when Dr. King gave this speech. Surely the memories of the experience influenced Wallace’s own reading. ‘His voice totally filled the place and you were enraptured in his spirit,’ Wallace said.
For Steven Johnson, one of the readers and a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Dr. King has taught him that we must ‘Triumph over circumstances, regardless of barriers’hellip;to create change in your community.’
One thing is certain, whether you saw Dr. King give a speech or like so many of us have just read his works, there is something at once formidable, yet gentle about this man and his ways. Wallace compares Dr. King to Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln in his ability to break very complex ideas down to a level anyone can understand.
Story by Vern Hockney