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Fort Lewis College students march to honor Martin Luther King Jr.

Almost 50 years after King’s death, work remains to end bigotry and racism

About 200 people marched, held workshops and heard speeches Monday to honor Martin Luther King Jr.’s struggle to overcome bigotry and racism in America, and they offered reminders that work to eradicate bigotry remains.

“This day has always been a celebration for me. A celebration that honors my heritage and the work that Martin Luther King did for the civil rights movement, and a reminder that we’re still working to fulfill his dream,” said Kaidee Akullo, a junior at FLC, after the march.

Several social justice workshops were planned during the day at the Student Union Ballroom.

Anthony Nocella, assistant professor at FLC, said workshop themes included activism, black student organizing, navigating institutions of racism, as well as art and social change.

At 6 p.m., poet, author, educator and activist Dominique Christina will speak at the Student Union Ballroom and also read her poetry.

According to her website, Christina has won five national poetry slam titles in four years, with her work influenced by her family’s involvement in the civil rights movement. She is also a writer and actor in the HBO’s series “High Maintenance.”

Richie Gillet, a junior, introduced a new club on campus, Men of Color, and added the words are literal: It’s a club open to all men, white, black, or brown.

Gillet, who grow up in inner-city Denver, said the group will focus on excellence within black men and all men to overcome oppression, violence and economic dislocation many men who grow up in poor, urban neighborhoods struggle with.

He said a good first step in overcoming the alienation many men in inner-cities harbor is economic empowerment, the ability to own the stores and shops in their neighborhoods.

Kalissa Stump, a sophomore and vice president of the Black Student Union, said Martin Luther King Jr. Day has always been, for her, a day when she can take pride in the struggle of people who came before her in the fighting for civil rights.

She said she may not see the outright physical discrimination her grandparents and great-grandparents had to overcome, but discrimination remains, and so does work to eliminate it.

“I don’t feel the fight physically,” she said of racism in society, “But I still feel it mentally.”

Eighty-five-year old Walter Deer told a much younger audience of the situation blacks faced in his youth growing up in Jersey City, New Jersey, in a time when blacks had to go to the second balcony in a theater to watch movies.

“We can’t ignore racism,” he said. “It does exist, but it’s a battle we can win.”

parmijo@durantgoherald.com

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