Martin Luther King Jr. Day is signified and celebrated on AU’s campus every year. All classes are suspended for the day, and you’ll find students, faculty and staff participating in the Peace and Justice March, attending forums on campus and joining in on city-wide events.
Despite having to transition to a virtual format for this year’s celebration, various events still allowed the campus community and city to honor King’s life and legacy.
The events on campus follow a theme every year, and 2021’s was “Awaken the Dream.” This year brought a new event entitled “A Million Steps for Martin,” that allowed for people everywhere to participate in what usually is the Peace and Justice March. The walking event started in late November and allowed students, faculty, staff and community members everywhere to create a team and track their steps. The goal was to reach one million steps, and the overall total steps reached over 20 million.
Dr. Joani Brandon, professor of music education, was one of the leaders behind the walk.
“A Million Steps for Martin” was a wonderful way to raise awareness for diversity and provide opportunities to purchase t-shirts and sweatshirts to support multicultural scholarships,” Brandon said. “It provided a way for departments and groups of friends to form teams and truly walk with purpose.”
She expressed her gratitude to the university for acknowledging the importance of the day and what it means.
“I am thankful to be part of a community that works to value hearing all voices and bringing everyone to the table,” she said. “We are not perfect, but we are striving to be Christlike, to listen and to love.”
While “A Million Steps for Martin” began earlier, the rest of the celebration kicked off with a virtual showing of the movie “Just Mercy” on Sunday night. The main events began on Monday with a virtual gathering featuring special guests.
“This tradition goes back over 50 years to our second president, Dr. Robert Reardon, who led a march back in the Civil Rights era to help identify with and bring attention to the racial inequity here in the country,” Pistole said in a video featured in the gathering. “We have continued to maintain that tradition.”
Another tradition that AU has participated in every year is the Anderson city-wide celebration at the Paramount Theatre downtown. Tammie Dixon-Tatum, the city of Anderson’s civil and human rights director, was the virtual host of the 41st annual event.
“This year our theme is ‘Where do we go from here?’” Dixon-Tatum stated on the virtual gathering. “The answer is equity. Equity in education, employment, economics and throughout all systems.”
The evening event on campus was a talk back session corresponding with the “Black Lives Matter” virtual series last semester. Each faculty and staff member returned virtually to answer submitted questions and create a space for discussion.
“The forum was very informative and well spoken,” said junior business management major Braden Mikel. “MLK Day is a special day to show how I stand together with my African American brothers and sisters and remember an amazing trailblazer that came before us.”