Despite the freezing temperatures on Monday, many AU students, faculty, staff and Anderson community members ventured to the Paramount Theatre to participate in the 36th annual city-wide celebration of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Ms. Ashlee Davis, an Anderson native, was featured as the guest speaker at the celebration. She spoke on the progress that America has made as a nation in regards to equality and justice. She also emphasized the continuous effort that people need to make toward unity in order for all people to be free.
Mayor Thomas Broderick Jr. echoed Davis’ sentiments, saying that the “fight against equality, the fight against injustice, is never-ending. While we have come a long, long way, we still have a long way to go.”
Immediately before and after the celebratory event, a large portion of attendees participated in a symbolic reenactment of the 1965 Selma march. The marchers, led by the Cultural Resource Center (CRC) Director Mike Thigpen, walked from Reardon Auditorium to the Theatre and back, crossing over the 8th street bridge as a symbol of unity within the Anderson community.
The march also served to honor of the protests and marches that took place during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. Thigpen hailed the turnout for the march as amazing. “The fact that you’re here in the cold says a whole lot about your commitment to unity as a community,” Thigpen said to the participants.
One of Monday’s marchers was Kristi Swiger, a sophomore musical theater major at AU. “I think it is just really important to understand our history and not forget about things like [the Civil Rights Movement],” she said.
“I’m marching on behalf of those people who did march [in the Selma march],” Swiger said. “I feel like we take this stuff for granted. We’re allowed to walk here, and we are doing a reenactment of a protest, but we don’t have to worry about people throwing stuff at us. I think it’s really neat to come back and, even though it’s not the same as what the marchers went through, to be able to experience part of it.”
Another marcher, sophomore dance major Faith Sayles, stopped along the route to take photos and video of the procession, which included flag-carriers representing the flags of 40 different nations. Sayles commented that when she was growing up, her family always celebrated MLK day.
“I love that Anderson tries to celebrate [MLK day] and get the students involved in it,” Sayles said. “I think that a lot of times, we ignore the fact that a lot of the racism that was really big back then still exists now in quieter ways. I really appreciate how much work that the CRC has done to make sure that students are still aware of that, and see what things were like back in the 1960s when all of this was going on.”
At the end of the march, participants filed into Reardon lobby, where they were greeted with a dramatic interpretation of Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech that followed the original Selma march.
In addition to the city-wide celebration and march reenactment, AU hosted several service projects and simulations. There was also a showing of the film “Selma” in the evening.