Some believe his dream is still alive, others believe it has been forgotten, and some do not know anything past his famous line “I have a dream”.
On Monday, the nation will honor the memory of the man who fought and died for equality among races, religions and cultures: Martin Luther King Jr.
The university community will honor King’s legacy with commemorative events from Jan. 20-30 with its kick-off celebration Jan. 23. This year’s theme is “Empower the Individual. Strengthen the Community. Honor the Dream,” aimed to include all individuals honoring King’s impact on the world.
“This commemoration week is to promote diversity among all groups such as the LGBTQ community and students with disabilities,” said Shana Lee, special project and initiatives director of the Student Multicultural Center. “It is not just about skin color.”
The university’s 12th annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration will begin with A Day of Service at various volunteer locations around Kent. Thursday’s main MLK Jr. celebration will commence with the presentation of the 2014 diversity trailblazer award and conclude with a silent march from Oscar Ritchie Hall to the “K” in Risman Plaza.
Lee, along with a planning committee, helped organize the events that will help students, faculty and staff reflect on how Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream has impacted them. She said the planning committee focused on all races and nationalities to learn about King and the impact his message has had on people of all nationalities.
“I feel like I honor the dream by ensuring our students have a fair chance,” Lee said. “This will help them achieve their dreams and goals which is an extension of Martin Luther King’s dream.”
Students and faculty will celebrate King and remember him in different ways.
Mwatabu Okantah, assistant professor in the department of Pan-African Studies, said he remembers King for his sermon, “Why I oppose the war in Vietnam,” instead of his “I Have a Dream Speech.”
“I think Dr. King’s legacy is too often reduced to his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,” said Okantah, whose family shares videos about King to enhance their knowledge of his impact and remember how he has changed the world.
Tristian Holmes, a senior general studies major, agreed with Okantah. He said students need to look at King’s life and impact on a variety of levels.
“Unfortunately, in my opinion his legacy has been watered down, he did more than the “I Have a Dream” speech and I would one day like to teach and share that with the community,” Holmes said.
Lee said all students need to be educated about diversity and comfortable with speaking up and standing up against acts of discrimination, instead of being just an observer.
“I feel like I honor his dream by being an African-American and knowing that I can achieve anything I want to in life,” said Stacy Moore, a sophomore business management major.
Cinnamon Small, outreach director in the department of Pan African Studies, said remembering King helps her live her life in service to others.
“Through Dr. King’s dream I am reminded to be thankful for what I have been given, who I am and to remember that we stand on the shoulders of giants,” said Small.
Contact Kara Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.