Compassion for one another, knowing that there is no wrong time to take action on something one believes in and the meaning behind the messages of an inspirational figure in our history, Martin Luther King Jr., were just a few of the themes that surrounded this year’s MLK unity walk.
The MLK unity walk is just one of the many events part of Dream Week at SMU. The Office of Multicultural Student Affairs hosts Dream Week every spring semester in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. and his messages that touched and continue to touch the hearts of many, including that of SMU faculty and students.
Katie Little, the Residential Community Director of Morrison-McGinnis Commons, believes that events such as this one are important to keep Martin Luther King’s message alive.
“I think that this event is a great way to celebrate all of the accomplishments of Martin Luther King Jr. but also to gather as a community and make a point of honoring each other’s differences and what makes us all unique,” Little said.
President of the Faculty Senate at SMU, Jeanne Stevenson, thinks that events like these influence the conversation of equality among all students, faculty and our society as a whole.
“I think it is very important that we come together in unity,” Stevenson said. “We all are marching for the fact that there is no such thing as a lesser person.”
The unity walk began with a few words from students and faculty members at the Hughes-Trigg Commons.
Interim Vice President of Student Affairs, Joanne Vogel, expressed sentiments on behalf of President Turner and the SMU administration.
“I stand today here united with you,” Vogel said. However, she realizes that being united with one another is sometimes easier said than done. “Unity is not always easy to achieve,” Vogel said. “It may come with struggle, tension, confusion. and misunderstanding.”
Unity is a necessary component to be in harmony with one another though, according to Vogel.
“It is though in my belief, worthwhile and necessary as it brings hope, companionship and strength.” Vogel said.
Senior Biko McMillan was among the speakers as well. There are faults in how Martin Luther King Jr.’s messages are sometimes portrayed, according to McMillan.
“There’s a problem here that we don’t talk about, a very convenient problem,” McMillan said. “Too often we offer a gentrified version of what Martin Luther King stood for.”
McMillan believes that some parts of King’s messages are too often left out.
“We have chosen to cherry pick the parts of the movement that soothe us,” he said. “We have stepped on his dreams and we have stepped on his actions.”
McMillan thinks that there are significant aspects of King’s movement that aren’t talked about enough.
“Indeed he was a man of peace and nonviolence, but let us not forget that he shut down streets, he was arrested, he was defiant,” McMillan said. “He didn’t merely die young, he was killed in action as a soldier.”
McMillan also touched on the meaning of King’s legacy.
“His message teaches us of the language of the unheard — one that he may not have spoken, but understood perfectly.” McMillan said. “That some care more about tranquility and status quo than they do about justice and humanity.”
Senior Dominique Earland was the last speaker before the march around campus began. She offered her heartfelt interpretations of King’s legacy as well.
“At times we feel the darkness of the world, but we should not lose sight of humanity — the same humanity Dr. King saw, and the humanity I see today.” Earland said.
There is no time like the present, according to Earland.
“To me, the spirit of Dr. King was that the time is always right to do what is right: right by your neighbor, right by your country and even though it’s difficult, right for those in our opposition,” she said. “Like Dr. King, we all have the capacity to do right by others.”
Following the words from students and faculty, the audience was invited on a march around campus. Members walked from the Hughes-Trigg Center to the boulevard and back.
Dream Week will continue with MLK Service Day Jan. 28, an all-day volunteer event with locations around the Dallas area. This year’s service day is expected to be the most attended, according to coordinator of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs Staphany López. Those interested in volunteering can sign up here.