MLK commemoration highlights activism

Jackson VolenecReporter

A celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s impact and legacy held in the Student Center ballroom on Wednesday by the Multicultural Center allowed students and faculty to commemorate the cultural impact his life left.

The event had focused primarily on discussing some of the most significant things King did when fighting for racial equality and social justice. Some of his most iconic moments were highlighted and celebrated by those attending the event, with multiple speakers presenting speeches on how we can continue King’s legacy.

“Dr. King fought and died for what he believed. Our call as students at Southern is to continue to fight for equality for all,” said Alexis Zhitomi, president of the Student Government.

She gave an introductory speech after the audience watched a short video summarizing King’s life. She also discussed the importance of students uniting as a community to work towards greater social justice for everyone and continue some of the movements King had helped move forward.

The main event consisted of a thorough speech by Reverend Carl Howard, the senior pastor of the first Congregational Church of West Haven, who discussed King’s legacy and how people today can honor his legacy by continuing to practice what he believed in.

“Prepare yourselves to put out all the fires you will encounter, and even if you can’t put them out, die trying,” said Rev. Howard, “This is the spirit of Dr. King.” Howard was the keynote speaker and mainly focused on the importance of inspiring those around you to participate in activism in your community.

Some of the values and ideologies that Rev. Howard discussed King’s fearlessness to challenge injustices when he saw them happening in society, often resulting in him getting arrested and contested. Howard said that King was an example of a “warrior” because of his bravery.

“King called out America regarding its hypocrisies, regarding its discriminatory practices of injustice, the inequality and the oppressive economic disparity that many of the people at time were living in,” said Rev. Howard.

The Rev. Howard said he uses King’s fearlessness as a blueprint for how people today should stand up and fight injustices, and when people join the fight, many more will be encouraged to join as well.

According to Howard, there is still much to be done in terms of social activism in all societies if we are ever to reach true equality for all types of people, and made effort to inspire the audience to fight if they were not already.

“Today, we are in the same battle. If all of us shoot our arrows, something is going to hit,” said Rev. Howard. “And even if our arrows don’t hit, maybe you’ll inspire someone to start shooting their arrows too.”

Multiple dance performances showcased different clubs on campus before and after the keynote speech. Steppin’ Up and the Organization of Latin American Students both presented different dances during the event.

President Joe Bertolino said he emphasizes the importance of having events on campus like this that commemorate activist icons such as King Jr., as it is crucial for society to understand its history in order to progress forward.

“As we strive to be a social justice university, we need to understand our history,” said Bertolino.

“The impact and sacrifices that others have made in order for all of us to engage in the work we’re doing now.”

Photo Credit: Izzy Manzo

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