The hope and vision of Martin Luther King Jr. rang across Fort Lewis College on Monday through the strength and spirit of the students and staff he continues to inspire with his legacy of non-violent resistance in the fight for racial equality and social justice.
“I feel this day gives people a chance to reset, and set the values and goals they have for themselves for the year,” said Destiny Morgan, president of the Black Student Union at Fort Lewis College. “And on MLK Day specifically, to me it’s about keeping Dr. King’s vision for humanity alive and authentic.”
The march on campus to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day was postponed because of inclement weather, as was the movie planned for later in the evening, but students and staff still gathered in the Student Union building to honor the man with an informal meet-and-greet hosted by the Black Student Union.
Martin Luther King Jr. was the chief spokesman for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, which protested racial discrimination in federal and state law. He was also a Baptist minister and great orator of his time. He was murdered at age 39.
Morgan shared a welcoming smile with one and all who dropped by to discuss King’s vision and legacy while she taped up banners, laid out coffee and cocoa, helped set up a raffle, and informed people that the scheduled march and movie would be postponed until next Monday.
“He was a huge civil rights icon and unfortunately his words were often misused and mis-appropriated in ways that don’t align with his original agenda, which is for people of all backgrounds and identities to come together as a collective,” Morgan said.
The group who gathered at the Student Union let it be known that King’s call to action from his “I Have a Dream” speech are no less urgent today than it was in 1968.
‘I Have a Dream’
Following is a portion of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, knitted together with ellipsis for the sake of brevity. King delivered the epic and moving speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial Aug. 23, 1963 during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
“…I have a dream…one day…little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers...with …faith we will …transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood…With…faith we will…work together…pray together…struggle together…stand up for freedom together, knowing…we will be free one day… And when this happens…when we allow freedom (to) ring… from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will…speed up that day when all of God's children…black…and white…Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will…join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last.”
King said – “We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.
“Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.”
Said Morgan: “There is still work that needs to be done. With new issues revealing themselves day-to-day. We as a people must remain resolved in our stance to keep moving forward for a better future.”
Gyana Gomar, the assistant director of the Hispanic Center, was helping out at the gathering while also cuing up soulful songs like Lady Wrax singing “you can dream, dream in color.”
“I feel like it is so important to honor the impact the black community has had in this country and to recognize all the injustices that the population continues to have to live through on a day-to-day basis.”
The injustices faced by African Americans is plentiful and difficult to root out in a country whose systems and institutions grew out of enslaving and oppressing its peoples. But that’s only fuel for the fire to continue to fight the good fight ignited by King and those who marched by his side, Morgan said.
“The reoccurring injustices, racism, poverty, etc., can leave us discouraged and tired,” Morgan said. “But we must remain committed to creating a just, human and equitable society.”
Celestea Deanes, a self-described “perpetual senior” at FLC, grew up in Chicago.
“And I was raised in an activist household where it was impressed upon me that being an activist was always an issue of civic responsibility,” she said.
American society is unravelling at a rate where she doesn’t expect there to be an America as it is now by the end of her lifetime.
“The exploitative classes in the U.S. are exclusionary and destructive and I expect the chickens are coming home to roost,” she said. “Younger folks need to broaden their minds to a world level, beyond America. America started out as an experiment. We can start over.”
Senior in sociology Maia Lehman said MLK Day means independence and a recognition of the struggles and progress that African Americans have made, both in the past and today. And she has a lot of hope for the future.
“I just hope people keep recognizing what’s happened in the past because when you forget about what happened in the past you forget how hard it has been and continues to be,” Lehman said. “So I just hope it comes easier with all our social movements and younger generations really caring about our social future.”
Morgan acknowledged the small numbers of African Americans represented at FLC and in Durango but said she is “glad to have amazing members of the Black Student Union and the FLC faculty and staff who amplify and uplift our voices for MLK Day, Black History Month and far beyond through their alliance.”