The Boston University community celebrated the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. Monday afternoon with a peace rally in front of the Marsh Chapel followed a by convocation in Metcalf Hall at the George Sherman Union. BU students, staff, faculty and guests shared their hopes for the future of the civil rights movement in honor of King’s advocacy for social justice.
Approximately 60 BU community members joined the outdoor rally, standing amid the snow flurries and sunshine to listen to BU professor, student and alumni speaking in regards to King’s legacy. Around 200 people later joined the assembly, where the community members partook in speeches, musical performances and poetry to memorialize King, a 1955 BU graduate and Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Juan Felipe Herrera, the 2015 U.S. Poet Laureate, spoke about his experiences growing up as a first-generation child of two Mexican immigrants in California and his involvement in the civil rights movement at the University of California, Los Angeles.
“In a world of total expression, it was our challenge to express ourselves,” Herrera said. “Let us become the motion of freedom. That is what peace is. Not holiday peace — everyday peace. Peace in our hearts, on the streets and in our minds.”
“In this and other domains at Boston University, we are richer for the diversity of our community,” BU President Robert Brown said during the convocation. “[However], we are far from finding the common ground in our differences, so that our diversity becomes the foundation for an even stronger academic community. Dr. King would’ve resolved to improve our community, and so shall we.”
BU Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore introduced various speakers to the crowd during the rally. The guests called upon BU community members to continue the peace process that King started by integrating acts of kindness, charity and generosity into their daily routines.
“You have been empowered, strengthened and educated. You have been provided with the tools to go out and execute something for someone else and not just yourself,” BU alumnus Marvin Venay said during the rally. “Will you be a picketer who holds a sign that says, ‘Love for all mankind?’ Or will you be somebody who goes out and shares their story?”
When the celebration moved from Marsh Plaza to Metcalf Hall, Katherine Kennedy, director of the BU Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground, opened the ceremony.
“The sun has not set on the possibility of equality, where each child is given unending opportunities to thrive, where the beauty of human difference is treasured, where violence in the name of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation is abhorred,” Kennedy said. “Where compassionate justice rings out.”
Angelica Silva, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, read two of King’s telegrams to Cesar Chavez, one of which was written on March 5, 1968, almost a month to the day before King was assassinated.
After a brief moment of silence to remember those who were killed in unfolding violence in recent years, Michael Aderibigbe, a graduate student in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, shared some of his poems regarding global racial inequality and his feelings as a Nigerian man living as a minority in the United States.
Justin Flynn, a junior in the Questrom School of Business, gave the final remark.
“Love those who came before you, love those who are around you and love those you come after you by making what’s around you better,” Flynn said.
BU’s annual commemoration for King, in place since 1971, is the longest held continuing Martin Luther King Day service to date in the United States, said Mary Moore, dean of the BU School of Theology.
Several attendees said they gained a deeper understanding about civil rights movement through the celebration.
Head of BU Academy Ari Betof said the celebration reminded the community to recognize and respect people with different background.
“So many of the words today were about bringing us together at a deeper level of understanding, which is what people at BU are trying to do,” Betof said.
Krystal Ramsamooj, a senior in CAS, said after attending the celebration, she felt issues around equality clearly exists in everyday life.
“A lot of times you look at the news and feel sorrow for what is going on, but you don’t feel like it is related,” Ramsamooj said. “This [commemoration] made it seem like it’s something you can relate.”
Maris Wilkins, a junior in CAS, said the celebration is an inspiration for community members to make the necessary changes.
“I watched a clip over break of the woman who stood up wearing a hijab at Donald Trump’s rally, and she was escorted out,” Wilkins said. “Not just minorities [deserve attention], but also religion and being respectful of all people who are different is important.”