Student Group Leaders Speak on the Legacy of Dr. King
The Thistle, Vol. 9 Iss 9.02
Reported by Kristen Nummi Nummerdor
The following are excerpts from the student group speeches presented in Lobby 7 on Friday morning. The speeches were coordinated by Brima Wurie, assistant to the Deans in the Counseling and Support Services and International Students' Office.
La Union Chicana por Aztlan [Garc’a read excerpts from King's "Letter from a Birmingham City Jail."]
"Nearly three decades have passed since Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his letter from the Birmingham city jail. Yet in many areas around this country, justice is still being delayed, still being denied. (For some of us, it's been a 500 year wait.) Like Martin Luther King's dream, I too hope that one day my very own children will be judged on the content of their character. How many more generations will pass through these corridors before this dream is a reality?"
Teresa W. Lau
Coordinator, Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals,and Friends at MIT and founding member, Asian Pacific American Caucus
"The challenge for us, as I see it, becomes a question of how to build on Dr. King's ideas and work around equality for African Americans, to expand those concepts and those analyses to address the complexities of inequality as we know it to be. The struggles of today, the struggles I find myself in the midst of, require that we pay attention to the many levels and manifestations and sources of oppression in our society. Along gender lines, class lines, over sexual preference and now citizenship status with the passing of Proposition 187, we are being divided, and then conquered. An example that comes to mind is the way that, 2 years ago, African Americans and Asian Pacific Americans were pitted against each other with myths and stereotypes, so that by the end of the LA riots, we could hardly see clear of all the media images and propaganda to even begin finding each other as allies. It's things like that that pain and frustrate me the most: when I see men of color perpetuating misogyny and sexism, when I see the poor and working class people supporting anti-immigrant legislation, when I see queer people voting against affirmative action. When things like that happen, we are only perpetuating the system of oppression that keeps us all down. And really, we should know better. We should know better than to buy into the kind of injustice and inequality that Dr. King and the civil rights movement of the sixties challenged and began mobilizing against. As we move into the future and continue the struggle, we have to see each other as the allies we could be, rather than as competitors for whatever small piece of the pie we think we're getting. We must take what the past can teach us, and use those lessons to help each other to survive and overcome the oppression that Dr. King fought against. It is up to us to continue the struggle, and particularly, to pay attention to our histories as we do the work of creating our future."
S. Todd York
President, American Indian Science and Engineering Society
"What does it mean to be a Native American? Our lives are not those in Dances With Wolves of even in F Troop. We are three groups of people, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians. What we have in common is our culture. Our respect for the land and all of its creatures and our connectedness to family.
"We are a unique group because we possess a dual citizenship: America, and our respective tribe. In a time when our sovereignty is being scrutinized by the Republican Right, we must demand that our sovereignty be kept no matter what the cost in order to maintain our culture.
"What does all of this have to do with the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., you might ask? From the teachings of Dr. King, we must demand freedom from our oppressors, this sovereignty is essential to our survival and freedom."
President Interfraternity Council
"Dr. King also said, 'I'm here, taking a stand, and I've come to the point where I can't face it alone.' And he was exactly right. There is no reason for him, or for anyone, to have to stand alone against prejudice or discrimination in any form. To honor his memory, and his achievements in life, all we have to do is give. Give away our fears, and our hatred, and our ignorance. And help others give away theirs. When all of us feel the cut of a crude joke, and feel hurt when we see another person discriminated against, then we are on the path towards equality."
Sheldon W. Myrie
Political Actions Chairperson, MIT Black Students' Union
"Dr. King showed how closemindedness benefited no one and that closemindedness made a society overlook the obvious and important fact that we are all human beings. Through peaceful resistance and protest Dr. King not only led Blacks but led the nation to believe that the 400 years of injustice and brainwashing have caused massive apathy in America when concerned with the issues of human and civil rights. Unless we endeavor to challenge what we are conditioned to believe, all will remain in apathy and remain in ignorance."
MIT Hillel [Wolfe read inspirational passages from figures in Black and Jewish history. One excerpt is included below.]
"It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because, in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can't build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness. I hear the ever-approaching thunder, which will destroy us too. I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquillity will return again." [Anne Frank]