Campus celebrates Martin Luther King Day in Metcalf Hall

By Jessica Musikar

Americans must work harder to fulfill Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘American Dream,’ said Darnell Williams, president and CEO of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, at Boston University’s 18th annual Martin Luther King Day celebration in Metcalf Hall yesterday.

The event brought together several hundred students, faculty and visitors to celebrate King and his efforts in the struggle for equal rights.

Williams spoke of himself as ‘an embodiment of Dr. King and so many others … who put their lives on the line’ to secure the privileges and opportunities that are available today. Williams focused on drawing connections between King’s work in the 1960s and the problems that the United States faces today.

‘America sets the example of justice and fairness for the rest of the world,’ Williams said. ‘We need to find more doves of peace’ to counter the drive to war, he said. King was called unpatriotic for opposing the war in Vietnam, just as today’s anti-war protesters’ loyalty is questioned, Williams said, stressing King’s legacy of successful non-violence.

‘We’re on the brink of war,’ he said, adding that King would be troubled by the use of violence and by military issues that detract attention and funds from domestic spending.

King would have supported the University of Michigan’s affirmative action admission program, Williams said, referring to the controversy now before the Supreme Court. King called for ‘a special effort’ to make the promise of equal opportunity real and to compensate for past and present discrimination. President Bush opposes the program because he says it discriminates against students based on race.

‘We have the capacity [to realize the dream], but do we have the will?’ Williams asked.

The situation today in America is ‘wrapped in ambiguity,’ he said, with the growth of the black educated middle class and ‘highly visible young black failures’ who we see on the news. King understood that ‘it was time to deliver’ on the promise of the American Dream, Williams said, and we are the beneficiaries of that dream.

Mourtada Deme, a student in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, also spoke of the American Dream, which he defined as ‘the right of all members of the human family to live with dignity.’ He extended the dream to all people everywhere.

To be free of evils like genocide and discrimination, Deme said, communities need to uphold the ethical principles that Dr King stood for: ‘solidarity and mutual understanding,’ the essence of humanity. All cultures are capable of change, he asserted, even cultures of violence. Deme concluded with an exhortation to ‘study and learn from other cultures.’

BU’s Martin Luther King Day commemoration program is similar from year to year, though the theme varies, according to Reginald Pryor, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs. This year’s theme, ‘The American Dream,’ is a reference to King’s dream of a world of peace and sharing, a dream Pryor said is still unfulfilled. Some of the things King fought for have changed but not all of them, he said.

Rabbi Joseph Polak delivered the invocation and Reverend Hope Luckie the benediction at the commemoration. The Seminary Singers from the BU School of Theology, College of Fine Arts Associate Professor Dr. Z. Edmund Toliver and the BU Inner Strength Gospel Choir also performed musical selections.

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