The Collegian
Wednesday, February 01, 2023

What does MLK Day mean to me?

"Intelligence plus character, that is the goal of true education."

I read that quote while doing some research on Martin Luther King Jr., and immediately asked myself whether the University of Richmond was meeting the goal of true education. I've come to the conclusion that this can only be decided on an individual basis, but that there are some instances that show it is true: Richmond students are seeking knowledge, and they are also seeking wisdom.

I think the best example of this was the beginnings of the annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I was reading through The Collegian archives and learned that the annual event, and altered class schedule, didn't start until 2005. Before that, students would organize events that usually included a march to the Tyler Haynes Commons where someone would read King's "I Have a Dream" speech and Umoja gospel choir and sometimes other groups would sing.

The official university-sponsored event began when people spoke up and asked for an event. Go figure. Creating change through words and action. Who knew?

King certainly knew that was how it was done. As Oliver W. Hill Jr., the keynote speaker from Monday's celebration, demonstrated, words are the beginning of change.

In the spirit of words and the beginnings of change, I thought I would include quotes from university members as the MLK Day events developed through the years.

2003: "Let us remember that we, too, must have a dream. To each of you gathered here today, I ask: What is your dream? What is your God-given task? In case no one has ever told you, you were not put on this earth to take up space. You have purpose. You have potential... This is not a black thing or a white thing. This is a people thing." Jennell Whitfield, Westhampton College '03, read King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

2004: "I don't think Dr. King would have wanted us to just take one day to focus on his message. It should be a part of our lives." Patrick Huber, Richmond College '04, on the university's policy of holding class on MLK Day.

2005: "Hopefully [the program] shows [students] that they can accomplish a lot and they don't have to settle for the social atmosphere. They can do something about it and not accept it as the way it is." Danielle Torain, WC '06, president of the Black Student Alliance in 2005.

2006: "It was such an inspiration to see everyone together on the first day of classes. It really reminded me of the days of the movement when everyone banded together and said 'We shall overcome.'" The Rev. Debyii L. Sababu Thomas, keynote speaker at the event in 2006.

2010: "We have endured and we're going to celebrate that." Babadunjo Olagunke, artistic director of the Ngoma African Dance Company.

"All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence. Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." Martin Luther King Jr.

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