MLK day speaker calls on youth to act
January 22, 2007 —
"What happens to a dream deferred?"
This question was posed with suggested resolutions to an audience of 350 people at a banquet in Curtiss Hall last Wednesday. The event was one of several at SVSU aimed at celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The evening's keynote speaker, Dr. Manning Marable, a professor of history, political science and policy at Columbia University, conveyed the message "Vision 2007: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and His Vision of Multicultural Democracy."
Marable challenged the youth of today to realize the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and "define a new moral assignment for yourselves in your own voice in our time." He states that only after this assignment is realized will we begin to realize fully the multicultural democracy of Martin Luther King, Jr.
"I challenge you to imagine such a multicultural world to help make Martin's democratic ideals a reality for our time," he said. "I challenge you to bend the moral arc of the universe to justice by making Martin's deferred dream...a part of the life of all Americans so we can all say finally we have overcome."
Marable said that part of realizing this dream is making sure that all Americans and long-term citizens have the right to vote and have equal access to health care. He continued with telling the audience that it is necessary to confront the past in order to create a better future.
He recognized that the youth of today might have difficulty fully grasping the importance of MLK or fighting to end injustice. He specifically described his own personal experience growing up in Tuskegee, Alabama, where racism and injustice affected "the smallest aspects of life."
"This is in my lifetime, not someone else's lifetime, not a historical footnote," Marable told the audience. "All of that is within the living memory of this society."
Marable shared his personal connection with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As a teen, he traveled to Atlanta to cover King's funeral for a local newspaper. He was "the first person there to witness history being made that day" at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 1968.
Marable's speech was preceded by music from the Heritage Singers, a brief welcome from President Eric R. Gilbertson, and dinner. In addition, Sheryl Revard-Yarvell was announced the winner of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Essay Competition. Her essay, entitled "Embracing Differences, Promises of Tomorrow," was inspired by the ideas of Martin Luther King, Jr. She said that he had always been a role model for her.
Amanda Kearns and Crystal Smith were among the many SVSU students who chose to attend the event. They are both currently enrolled in Dr. Kenneth Jolly's African American history course and said this event was almost like the professor had taken them "all on a field trip."
The office of Minority Student Services is one of several organizations on campus that help coordinate cultural programming during the week of MLK day. However, not all students take advantage of the sponsored activities. Director Calvin McFarland mentioned that the candlelight vigil his office organized was sparsely attended.
"We started this because there are a lot of students that complain about not having the day off," he said. "We tried to give students things to do to celebrate Martin Luther King and his life."
McFarland's office also sponsors the King/Chavez/Parks college day program, which is designed to enchance primary and secondary school students' knowledge of what it is like to attend college. The program helps to educate students on topics like financial aid, grading, career exploration, and ACT/SAT strategies. The survey for middle school students can be accessed at SVSU's Web site, svsu.edu/mss.