Celebrating a man, honoring a vision

The events of the past have a profound effect on the people today. Recently, Western Carolina University spent a week in remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr.

During this week, students of all backgrounds and interests worked to give back to the community by reaching out.

Anthony Franklin, a brother of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated, stated, “The path was paved by many people, it wasn’t just Dr. King. Many people gave their lives for the cause of equality, and I believe that is why we must gather together as one to look forward to the future.”

On Tuesday, Jan. 22, Dr. King’s speech was broadcasted in WCU’s Plaza over loud speakers. His words resonated off of the buildings, reaching for the recesses of the hills.

James Felton, director of intercultural affairs, described the reenactment as “a call to action. To ask people to remember what King stood for. We get caught up in the mystical and magical idea of a dream, the dream of equality for all. But, we must remember that it is about the collective responsibility of each individual to uphold human rights for all.”

As students bustled all around, they paused to listen and comprehend the words being said.

When asked what Dr. King’s speech meant to him, Rakim Lash, also a brother of Alpha Phi Alpha, stated, “[It] forces us to hold a mirror up to society. Have we really reached the dream that was preached about so many years ago? People believe that because we no longer have Jim Crow laws or slavery. We’re past that. But, people don’t realize that his message was about equality for all-that is gender, sexuality, race and anywhere that can be discriminated. We are still so far from that and we cannot achieve it when we still have things like jokes in the work place about ‘that is so gay’ or ‘that’s so retarded.’ Are people standing for equality? Is social justice really in people’s heart? So, that’s what this is. It is about taking that personal responsibility and saying how do I contribute to the bigger picture? What is my civic duty as a human being and as an American?”

At this annual MLK week-long event, Nikki Giovanni shared her wisdom and partook in a call to action for WCU students, faculty, staff and community on Wednesday, Jan. 23. During her dialogue in the University Center Grand Room, Giovanni deposed of the word taboo. She created an atmosphere of camaraderie with momentous philosophizing. Through an anecdote about Rosa Parks, Giovanni honed in on the simple fact that change does not occur over one night. It does not occur because one man does one thing. Change occurs when each individual finds within themselves the passion to create a better world.

Jacole Dunlap, a member of on-campus club Truth Writers, said, “Nikki Giovanni is a leader and role model for me as a woman. Like MLK, she has been a huge advocate for equality and the individual. This is why it was such a large honor to have the opportunity to read my poem in front of her.”

Within the short speech, Giovanni chose to call to attention the ability an individual has that can spark a revolution. She spoke words that connected the actions of individuals that time has made larger than life.