“It’s time that we understand that we are either part of the problem or part of the solution,” senior Anthony Walker said. “We need to organize and reach out to a generation of young black people that are dying at rates that have never been seen before.” In celebration of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Junior students such as Walker gathered in Club 88 to use spoken word in order to address issues facing the black community today.
Topics such as gun violence and police brutality were brought to the table as students used poetry, speeches and rap to get their message across. The spoken word performances were one part of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.
“Stop the killing and start the healing” was the theme for this year. It was chosen in light of the many racial disparities and acts of violence that continue on today. King is known for his leadership in the American civil rights movement by using nonviolent direct action such as boycotts and protests. Along with other civil rights leaders such as Rosa Parks, King led the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. As a result, the United States Supreme court ruled segregation on public transportation as unconstitutional. King later broadened his focus to speak out against the Vietnam War, poverty, and capitalism.
Delaphine Hudson, Director of Residential Life, founded the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Program. Starting as a final project in graduate school, Hudson brought the program to the University of California, Los Angeles in 1989. Moving to Whittier College, the program has been on campus for 13 years. Valuing collaboration, the celebration is hosted by the Office of Residential Life in partnership with the Black Student Union and the William Penn Society.
Administrators were pleased with this year’s turnout. “It is a beautiful thing when community members, students, alumni and staff can all learn, teach and grow together in one space,” Director of Leadership, Experience, and Programs Shauna Young said. “Delaphine Hudson, the Residential Life Staff, the William Penn Society, the Black Student Union and everyone who contributed to this year’s MLK Jr. Celebration did a great job.”
The celebration fell on the same day as President Barack Obama’s inauguration and the month before Black History Month [February]. “Martin Luther King, Jr. is an idol of mine,” President Sharon Herzberger said. “The kinds of things he stood for are what Whittier stands for. And I’m particularly happy about the President’s inauguration falling on Martin Luther King day. It seems appropriate.”
“When you look at Martin Luther King and what he stood for, and also by me being an African American woman, I am grateful for the contribution that he made during the sixties. “We need to continue the legacy and continue to dream,” Hudson said.
Next year the Office of Residential Life plans of collaborate with more with other offices on campus. Continuing the celebration, Hudson was invited to be a judge at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Oratorical Contest at the University of California, Los Angeles.
As the Martin Luther King, Jr. day has reminded us, anti-racist struggle is not over. “It not only celebrates an exemplary civil rights leader,” said the Director of Cultural Center, Joy Hoffman. “It reminds us that our job is not done.”