My March with Dr. King
August Pelliccio – News Writer
Today, most recognize and respect the mark Martin Luther King Jr. left; but only as far back as 1986, Dr. Yan Searcy remembers seeing a thrown brick resting in the shards of a broken front window.
Searcy is now the associate dean of Southern’s School of Health and Social Services, and gave the keynote speech at the Jan. 31 event My March with Dr. King. Coordinator of multicultural affairs Dian Brown-Albert first took the stage, offering a warm welcome.
“Today we celebrate the life and legacy of a man who brought hope and healing to America,” Brown-Albert began.
Chief among King’s virtues was that he dedicated his life to equality for all people, according to Brown-Albert.
“Without Dr. King and the civil rights movement,” Brown-Albert said, “I don’t know if I’d be standing here in front of you.”
Brown-Albert continued to say that African-American and Hispanic, Native American, Asian American and Caucasian alike, each person in the room that day is part of the great dream that King had for America.
Next Brown-Albert welcomed Kristele Louis, then Jonathan Meyers to the stage. The students performed the Negro National Anthem and the Star Spangled Banner, respectively.
President of the University, Joe Bertolino followed, thanking the students for their contributions. Bertolino briefly spoke about his first ever visit to Southern in July of 2016.
“The day that I came was the day this community had come together to have a discussion on race,” said Bertolino. “It was a powerful moment, and I got to be there as a participant and a spectator.”
The president said this is one thing he has respected about the community since before he was a part of it: acceptance and equality. Bertolino said this community is effective in its ability to listen to the voices of students, faculty and staff.
“I hope that our community will continue to lead in the efforts of social justice,” said Bertolino. “Where we fall short, I hope we will acknowledge our shortcomings and decide where to go next.”
When Yan Searcy took the stage, he painted a very clear picture of what life was like as an African American before this acceptance and equality existed in his community.
“Black people are the only group of people in the United States,” Searcy said, “who have had it’s humanity legislated into existence.”
Searcy explained that growing up in Kokomo, Indiana, over 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, African American rights were still severely diminished.
Searcy said there were surrounding communities with very active support from the Ku Klux Klan. Elwood, Indiana, for example, was a “sundown town.” Searcy said this meant dark-skinned folks were not permitted after dark.
“I’m not talking 1945,” Searcy said, “I’m talking 1985.”
Searcy said during one evening’s visit to his high school girlfriend’s home, he experienced hate crime first hand.
“The sound of breaking glass shattered our conversation, and shattered their front picture window,” Searcy said.
Searcy said a group of gentlemen had seen him walk into the house earlier, and subsequently threw a brick at the house. Hatred like that was combated by the movement King led, according to Searcy, who said he lived the movement.
“With no King, there is no America as we currently know it,” Searcy said. “There’s absolutely no possibility.”
Photo Credit: August Pelliccio