By Brittany Lawonn
Martin Luther King Jr.’s peaceful ideals and practices should be applied to race relations in America today and the current situation in Iraq, Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner (Roxbury) said last night at a King commemoration organized by the Boston University Green Party in Metcalf Hall.
Americans must challenge themselves and expand their world views while looking at violent situations worldwide, he said. Views on the current state of race relations in America must also be widened to include the plight of all minorities.
“It’s not just the problems at home, it’s not just a problem for the people of African descent,” he said.
Turner also said King’s work was not simply restricted to a small region of the South.
“While he began his work in the South, he didn’t stop there,” he said. “He came north to say to us that the same issues that he struggled with in the South were issues in the North.”
He explained the importance of remembering the work the King did during the Civil Rights Movement, saying the ability to exercise the rights of citizens is very important aspect in today’s world.
“If in 13 years he could take this trip and have this vision, then who are we not to follow him?” Turner asked the audience. “Dr. King was there. He had the courage to speak out and he broadened the perspective.”
Civil rights attorney Arthur Kinoy, Colgate University professor Joan Mandle and BU student Onaje Crawford also spoke at the event. Each used part of their remarks to explain how King’s ideas fit into the United States’ possible conflict with Iraq.
“If Dr. King were alive today he would be opposing actively the U.S. war on Iraq,” Kinoy said.
Turner also mentioned his views on the situation and called out for students to help stop what he called the “insanity.”
“This is a moment where we need to continue Dr. King’s work,” he said. “We have to really say it to ourselves that we can’t have peace at home before we end our militarism ideas. It’s a challenge that brings anxiety, but brothers and sisters, we don’t have a choice.”
Mandle, who is executive director of campaign finance organization Democracy Matters, also expressed the importance of King’s views and life in current issues as well as the need for students to take action.
“You have to be the leaders,” Mandle said. “They’ll listen to you. You have to create the new social movement and Dr. King’s legacy can show us the way.”
As a lawyer during the Civil Rights Movement, Kinoy said he worked alongside King the entire time and shared his firsthand experiences.
“In those days, there weren’t any lawyers,” Kinoy said. “He was always there teaching us to find the ways of reaching out. Every single one of us had a duty and an obligation.”
Each speaker expressed the importance of King’s life and works as making an impact on society today. She said seemingly isolated incidents of racist comments, like those of Trent Lott in December, are not as infrequent as some people think.
“King is a model for us and he’s a model for us today,” Mandle said. “We’re facing a crisis on civil rights now. Trent Lott is not unique.”
Crawford pronounced the importance of acknowledging King’s stature.
“The more we know about Dr. King the more human he becomes,” Crawford said. “The truth is he was just a man. Men of his caliber don’t come along every day.”
Crawford is currently a member of the fraternity King was in, Alpha Phi Alpha.
Turner specifically stated the importance of King’s belief in equality for everyone globally.
“Our issue for him was the issue of the dignity of human beings no matter where they are in the world,” he said.
According to Kinoy, King always mentioned the fourth branch of government, the people, to be the most important. Mandle agreed and emphasized how important King made people feel.
“He was able to make people around him better than they were before,” she said. “His courage made us find our own courage.”
Each speaker discussed the need to remember King and put his ideas to use.
“He was able to be a role model in the best sense of the word,” Mandle said.
BU Green Party president and event organizer Karlo Silbiger said events like the King commemoration are important for all students.
“There’s never been a student-run Martin Luther King Jr. event in the history of BU and for students to go here and have nothing done isn’t right,” he said. “The idea is not just to tell people about King, it’s about getting people involved now.”
While many people questioned BU Green’s reason for putting on such an event, Silbiger simply expressed the importance of making students aware.
“We don’t see ourselves as trying to get BU students to vote Green,” he said. “Our job at BU is to educate and activate.”
Several community service groups set up booths around the perimeter for students to learn more about becoming involved in community events and voter registration.
The event was the first part of a two-day King commemoration, organized by the BU Green Party. The group is also sponsoring Civil Rights Film Night tonight in CAS 224. Two films will be shown about important moments during the Civil Rights Movement.