When members of the Black Student Union gathered on the Diag yesterday, there were no rallies or acts of community service. The only speaker was never seen and his words came from inside a white Chevrolet truck.
Students listened to recorded speeches given by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in hopes of achieving what they said the day”s real purpose should be: to remember the life of King and his achievements.
“I truly feel that the U of M has taken MLK Day and watered it down by not paying homage to a great leader,” said LSA junior Jarvis Williams, treasurer of BSU. “I think we have these events in the name of MLK without recognizing MLK.”
Unlike other events yesterday, this remembrance of King was very low-key. His speeches were played from speakers with the intention of gaining the perspective of his dream. Hot chocolate was given out, and most students gathered around the “M” to converse. Everybody gathered together for a few minutes to sing the Negro National Anthem.
“I grew up with that song. My mother taught me that all African Americans should know that song,” said LSA senior Christa Wimberly, who led the singing. “I highly urge (black students) to learn it. Even if you don”t know it, you need to know of it.”
BSU members then created a circle and joined hands and listened to King”s words in silence.
“The symposium is a good thing,” Wimberly said. “My only big thing is that as I”ve been here, I”ve seen his name, his principles, his values, slowly being removed from this day. It”s nice to see him back.”
Thirty-four years after King”s death, many students said that they feel his ideas of freedom and equality are as relevant today as they were in the 1960s.
The civil rights problems of the 1950s and “60s, like bus segregation and housing segregation, have been replaced with the civil rights problems of the 21st century, including affirmative action, police brutality and institutionalized racism. In troubled times such as these, many look back at King”s messages of the 1960s, among them, “to let freedom ring.”
“I don”t think his dreams have come to pass,” Williams said.