Martin Luther King Jr. Day (MLK Day) is a national remembrance of King’s famous ‘I Have a Dream Speech’ and his legacy.
Brian “B” Martin, speaker at the MLK Day celebration, said “Through his speech, Dr. King gave us a visual illustration of how God wants everyone to be treated, and it inspired, and still is inspiring, people from all racial/ethnic, socio-economic, gender, and religious backgrounds to speak up and get involved so everyone will be treated with love, equality, and value.”
To honor this holiday, Anderson University students have the day free of classes in order to participate in the celebrations planned.
AU’s theme this year was “Moving Forward Together” based on the quote from Dr. King, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
Martin said, “From this quote, we believe MLK was challenging all of us to stop making excuses for why we’re not getting involved in the cause of providing freedom, equality and justice for everyone.”
“At the same time,” he continued, “we believe he was encouraging us to do whatever we’re able to do to keep moving forward towards this goal.”
After the initial gathering in Reardon Auditorium, the AU community, including President John S. Pistole, walked in the annual Peace and Justice March. Students carried flags representing the different nations that AU students affiliate with as they marched to the Paramount Theatre.
Pistole said, “MLK Day is special for us here at Anderson University because it helps us focus with intentionality on not only the life and the legacy of Dr. King, but the opportunities each of us have to make a difference in the world for justice and equity and for social justice issues that we are all about here at AU.”
“So the fact that we can gather together in Reardon, hear some great speakers and to be able to march downtown to the Paramount Theatre to be part of the city wide celebration helps us demonstrate that intentionality that we believe in Christ’s mission reconciling the world,” Pistole said. “And Dr. King is just such a great role model for all of us to act with boldness.”
During the march Elisa Mendiola, Junior at AU and speaker at the MLK Day events, said, “I think you still see the impact in how people are still willing to fulfill that dream as years go on and on and on. You see so many people here wanting to celebrate MLK Day on their day off because there’s still that need to fulfill that dream.”
Several professors shared their comments during the march also.
Dr. Dulce Maria Scott, Chair of the Department of Social Work; Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice, said, “As I reflect on MLK’s movement in the 1960s what strikes me – is or what I like to reflect on is how much change happened. It was a great transformation in this nation because it led to the elimination of official segregation.”
“However,” she continued, “just because you change laws does not mean that you change minds, hearts and practices. And so although it was a great transformation, we still have a lot of racism, both individual and overt and systemic.”
Martin said, “Over the last 60 years, there are a lot more equal treatment and equal opportunities for people who weren’t receiving them back then, but there’s still more positive progress that can be made. That’s part of the reason why celebrating MLK each year is so important for us to do.”
Scott mentioned the importance of moving forward together in “changing the minds and hearts of people who are overt racists, but also dealing with our institutions: the criminal justice system, the educational system, the employment system, the economy, employment and so forth in order to eliminate and to address the systemic racism”, noting that systemic racism is not always visible.
Dr. Timothy Fox, Chair of the Department of Modern Languages, remembered the first Peace and Justice March at AU as he saw the community participating in 3rd grade and the pictures in the paper afterward.
Fox said, “I really think this is completely in line with our, our theology and Christian theology in general. I would hope students can see the importance of this both in terms of our solidarity as a campus, our solidarity as a people and and truly, you know, loving all our brothers and sisters.”
At the Paramount, the Anderson community joined for the 43rd city-wide MLK Day celebration.
It was pointed out that Anderson, IN started an MLK remembrance celebration in 1980, while it was declared a national holiday in 1983. The city-wide theme of this year was “The Telegraph: Moving Forward Together With Urgency”.
The day’s celebration ended with singing “I Need You To Survive” led by the AU Gospel Choir.
The legacy of Dr. King doesn’t end after MLK Day. Martin said, “One of the ways that our AU community can be more attentive to Dr. King’s mission all year round is by being intentional in getting to know someone who is different than us and getting involved in that person’s life and different causes that can help us to move forward together towards equally loving, accepting, and valuing others the way God loves, accepts, and values us.”