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USU remembers & celebrates the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

January 14th, 2011 Posted in Opinion

By Heidi Hansen

LOGAN—USU’s celebration of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday Wednesday evening featured music, poetry, speeches and a candlelight vigil, but what organizers agreed was most important was that attendees left feeling inspired and ready to carry on King’s work.

The event was held in the Taggart Student Center Ballroom and funded by USU’s Access and Diversity Center as its crowning event of the year, but the majority of the program was planned by members of the Black Student Union.

See Related Story on King’s “Beloved Community.

For sophomore Anthony Pratt, the BSU treasurer, the evening was “about finding ourselves with the help of Martin Luther King Jr.” He said he hoped the evening was “an interaction, not just a show,” and said he hoped people took the opportunity to “feel inspired, renewed and find a new sense of self-awareness and world-awareness.”

Alumnus Mark Flores, one of the original co-founders of USU’s Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration, was the night’s distinguished guest speaker.

Flores said in his speech that King “laid bare the abyss between the promise of America and the realism of American life.” He added, however, that today’s society still “refuses to have a serious conversation about race and discrimination.”

“Perhaps it is time to let go of the past, but then what?” Flores asked. “What about today? Right now?” His defining message was that though society has come a long way in the 50 years since segregation officially ended, there is still a long way to go in terms of equality and social justice to complete King’s civil rights work.

After Flores’ speech, candles were handed out and BSU secretary Ashley Miller led the audience of about 150 people in a candlelit procession to Old Main. During the moment of silence, participants randomly broke out in song, singing “This Little Light of Mine.”

The vigil ended with a benediction from Pratt. “If we illuminate this campus just like this light,” he said, “there’s no telling how high we can go.”

Afterward, participants reflected on the event and on Martin Luther King’s legacy.

“The entertainment was nice,” said sophomore Chris King, “but the candle-lighting was the most important. Tonight was about that moment of silence and finding ourselves.”

Chris King, the PR and recruitment officer for the Black Student Union, said the night was amazing but he wished more people from the Logan community had come. He said they tried to get the word out to the community on local radio stations, but apparently the wrong time was broadcast.

Rachel Brighton, multicultural program coordinator at USU’s Access and Diversity Center, said she sees more people come to the event every year. She said this year they decided to add refreshments after the candlelight vigil portion of the evening to give people an opportunity to mingle and interact with those they might not normally get to meet.

Flores recalled the first USU Martin Luther King Jr. event, which came about when the Black Student Union, the Hispanic Student Union and the Native American club joined forces to make it happen.

“We had a deep, abiding respect for King and what he had done,” Flores said. “It was a celebration about all of us.”

Sophomore Tiffany Scansanoeun said the evening was a nice reminder of what King accomplished and, as a multicultural student, she said she felt prompted to do better.

Her friend, Allia Peragallo, a freshman visiting USU from Parson’s School for Design in New York, said she enjoyed the evening and found the musical performances and poetry reading very moving. But she said she expected to be more inspired by the event than she was.

“I don’t think it was targeted towards the right audience,” Paragallo said. “There are a lot of younger people here and I felt the focus should have been about striving in education.”

One highlight of the performance portion of the evening was an original poem performed by Pratt titled “Antoine Goes to Church,” about the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., where four young girls were killed.

“I saw pictures of the event and felt compelled,” Pratt said. “Then I just tried to put myself in a position as if I were there.”

BSU Vice President LaDonya Jackson read excerpts from King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. She was followed by a musical performance of the Black National Anthem, “Lift Ev’ry Voice,” sung by soprano Shalayna M. Guisao, another BSU member, accompanied by Karrie A. Begay, an intern at the Access and Diversity Center.

The Grammy-nominated USU Chamber Singers also performed at the event, singing “Ride the Chariot.”

Afterward, Brighton said she was pleased. “The timing of this event was really appropriate in light of recent events in Arizona,” she said.


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