The SMU community celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with the annual Commemorative Unity Walk. A crowd of about 60 people gathered in Hughes-Trigg Student Center to listen to speeches and songs before embarking on their march down the Boulevard. Students, faculty, staff and administration sang freedom songs like “This Little Light of Mine” and “Wade in the Water” as they marched.
“We walk in memory of what happened at the time,” President R. Gerald Turner said. “We’re looking forward too. Anything that has to do with human life is never a beginning and an end; it’s a process.”
Those in attendance agreed with Turner’s statement. Senior Tyrell Russell spoke to the crowd challenging them to fight against oppression and stand up against injustice today, just as Dr. King did during his time.
“When I think of the legacy of Dr. King I think of something that is relevant to SMU and that is coalition building,” Russell said.
Russell saw this element of coalition in the movie “Selma,” released earlier this month. Those who participated in the freedom marches in “Selma” were from all walks of life and racial backgrounds, Russell said.
“That’s what it’s about,” he said. “Just because one people are oppressed that doesn’t mean that it’s just for them.”
The commemorative walk not only celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but also sparked conversations of race relations.
Senior Ender Barillas had similar ideas about the state of the country today.
“There is a lot of diversity, which is great,” he said. “This country is very accepting of this diversity, but sometimes it’s not.”
Barillas believes that there are several parallels between what happened in “Selma” and what is happening now in places like Ferguson.
“MLK was an important figure because of the courage he showed to disrupt the nature of the [society] he was in,” Barillas said.
Barillas and Russell challenged the audience and asked each of them a hard question: How do I get involved in the fight?
“Especially on a campus where the slogan is ‘World Changers Shaped Here,’” Russell said.
President Turner ended the opening statements by thanking Dr. King for his work and impact on America.
“What he did for the rest of the country is remove the burden of having to carry that indefensible load for so long [… ] being free of hatred is a tremendous gift,” Turner said. “That’s a gift he had in mind for each of us.”