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Ayanna Pressley among speakers at joint BU, Boston MLK observance

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh speaks at the celebration co-hosted by the City of Boston and Boston University. SOPHIE PARK/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Boston University held its first joint observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day with the City of Boston Monday. Attendees heard from a number of community leaders including U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, BU president Robert Brown and Mayor Martin Walsh.

At the two-hour ceremony, hosted in the Metcalf Ballroom, Pressley spoke about her experiences as a BU student and the impact of King’s message on her life.

“[King] was a radical because the literal definition is someone who seeks extreme change of habits, of conditions or of institutions,” Pressley said. “He was a drum major for social justice, but again, more than a dreamer, more than a revolutionary.”

More than anything, Pressley said, King was “radical when pushing for peace.”

“Our commitment to achieving racial and economic progress must be deeper than a trendy hashtag or a cute bumper sticker,” Pressley said. “I ask each of you to continue to be radical in the actualization of justice, of hope and of love.”

Walsh noted in his speech that Boston played an important and formative role in King’s life.

“Today, Boston is rising up and striving to live out these ideals more than any other time in the history of our city,” Walsh said. “It starts in the places which nurtured Dr. King as a young man — Boston University where he studied, the 12th Baptist church in Roxbury where he preached and the entire African American community.

Walsh also said that in February, in honor of Black History Month, he will bring Boston leaders together to walk the Black Heritage Trail and visit the Museum of African American History.

“We need to be clear,” he said. “Black history is Boston history, and it’s equal rights and opportunities that are Boston’s values.”

Brown announced at the event that BU will pledge a quarter of a million dollars to the construction of a memorial in the city dedicated to King’s legacy.

“We hope to see this project through to completion and that the future generations of Bostonians and visitors will appreciate MLK’s extraordinary legacy and what his years in Boston meant to him, Mrs. King and to all of us,” Brown said.

BU Student Government President Devin Harvin also addressed King’s impact, discussing three elements of King’s life — willingness to sacrifice his desires for the betterment of the community, the importance of the community that surrounds a leader and the power of a dream.

“His dream of equality and justice is still in the works, but nonetheless, his dream catalyzed a movement,” Harvin said.

Colter Schroer, a freshman at the College of General Studies, said that Pressley’s speech was the highlight of the event for him.

“It was stunning and inspirational to hear,” Schroer said.

Katherine Kennedy, director of BU’s Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground, Augustine Jimenez, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, and Archelle Thelemaque, a junior in the College of Communication, also spoke at the event Monday.

A number of orchestral and choir pieces were performed by BU’s Inner Strength Gospel Choir and the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra.

CAS freshman Sarah Cocroft said she particularly enjoyed the orchestra’s performance.

“I thought the orchestra was very moving, especially at the end when they had the sing-along because they were using songs that meant something special to MLK, and the audience was able to join in, as well,” Cocroft said.

Brown closed the ceremony with an address, calling for the need of a nationwide New Year’s resolution to commit to moral leadership.

“All of us have a role in making Boston University a small part of a better world imagined by Dr. King,” Brown said. “We can lead in making the community more inclusive, that is more and supportive of all, irrespective of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.”

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