2006 32nd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration
A Call for Economic and Social Justice in the 21st Century
Chair, Democratic National Committee's Voting Rights Institute
Adjunct Professor, Georgetown University
Managing Director, Brazile and Associates (political consulting firm), Washington, D.C.
MLK Leadership Awardees
In Memoriam: Coretta Scott King (1927-2006)
Coretta Scott King at MIT, 1994
MIT's 32nd Annual MLK Celebration honored King, who was assassinated in 1968, and his wife, Coretta Scott King, who died on Jan. 30, 2006, ten days before the gathering. Mrs. King was the MLK breakfast keynote speaker in 1994. Her address was titled "The Movement for Economic and Social Justice: 1994 and Beyond".
The 2006 commemoration theme was "Dr. King's Unfinished Agenda: A Call for Economic and Social Justice in the 21st Century". Keynote speaker Donna Brazile mourned the passing of Mrs. King: "I loved her spirit and determination." But Brazile reminds us, "The most important thing is not just to cry and weep but continue her work." She calls for the renewal of the Voting Rights Act, which she describes as "the most important civil rights law that was passed," and chides President Bush for not endorsing the legislation at Mrs. King's funeral.
"Students honor Martin Luther King Jr. with creativity, open minds"
Sasha Brown, MIT News Office, 12 Jan 2007
Lisa Witmer '07 helped to design a bus installation in Lobby 10. "We chose to make the focus of the installation a bus in order to commemorate Rosa Parks and her contributions to the beginnings of the civil rights movement in Montgomery, Alabama," Witmer said. "My group designed the exterior of the bus with recent newspaper articles about race-related crimes and injustices to serve as a reminder to people that the civil rights movement did not end decades ago, but rather is an issue that Americans are still dealing with today."
Senior Ryan Richardson also contributed to the final installation last year in Lobby 10. For him, the course is an eye-opener. "All things considered, MLK offers students the opportunity to interact with other students across racial and cultural lines," he said. "It's real and unpretentious, and allows you to meet people from different living groups often defined by race and/or culture lines."
MIT News Office
Donna Brazile’s remarks
02/09/2006 7:30 AM Walker Morss Hall
Donna Brazile, Founder and Managing Director of Brazile and Associates, LLC
Description: Donna Brazile's informal but impassioned address illuminates her role not only as a mover and shaker in the halls of power but as a great national conscience.
Brazile mourned the passing of Coretta Scott King at this event held ten days after Mrs. King's death: "I loved her spirit and determination." But she reminds us, "The most important thing is not just to cry and weep but continue her work." She calls for the renewal of the Voting Rights Act, which she describes as "the most important civil rights law that was passed," and chides President Bush for not endorsing the legislation at Mrs. King's funeral.
Brazile was pressed into organizing the funeral cortege for another national icon, Rosa Parks. "I've been in presidential motorcades, vice presidential motorcades. I'd never been in a motorcade that a black woman was leading." When the procession wound its way through Washington, D.C.'s poorest neighborhoods on a cold, winter night, "people were lined up with their children outside to wave goodbye." While we owe so much to those who championed freedom and justice and equality, says Brazile, "it's fitting we continue to spread the gospel of peace, love, mercy and justice."
Brazile's most involved, and involving, tale, involves her large family, stuck in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Planes flew over as family members begged for water in the scorching heat. When she learned that the authorities would not evacuate her disabled sister from an assisted living facility, because senior citizens and people in public housing were "not a priority," Brazile took characteristic action. "I combed my hair, put on some makeup, and I went to CNN. I said, "Wolf, I need five minutes."
Now, her aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters "are scattered in eight states in 14 cities. In order to keep up with them and to communicate I have to pull out an Excel sheet because they're still on the run from the worse storm of all, and that's the storm of indifference." It's time for a "frank conversation about the poor in America," says Brazile. Today, "our country's moving in the wrong direction and we need a course correction." Current policies are damaging racial equality, and economic and social justice, she says, and it's time for citizens to take a stand. "Don't wait for the president or vice president or any member of Congress to tell you what you know in your heart is the right thing to do. If you believe in justice, if you believe that Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King served a greater cause and a more noble cause, then give back and help lift someone up."
David Lowry, Anthropology student, MIT '06 ; John Pope, Former EECS student, MIT
Description: With a mix of bitterness and hope, these two young men address the legacy of Martin Luther King. David Lowry, a Lumbee Indian, grew up in southeastern North Carolina where the great majority of the Lumbee people reside.
He speaks compellingly of his Lumbee Indian ancestry, and his need to be recognized at MIT and beyond as part of a group that goes unrecognized by the government and even by other Native Americans as an authentic and distinct people.
"The spirit of segregation is alive and well today," he says. While political correctness encourages students of color not to feel obligated to reveal their ethnicity, Lowry embraces his own defiantly. How else to challenge a dominant society that not only manipulates people of color in the media, but neglects them in national disasters, and sends them in disproportionate numbers to war.
For the middle and upper classes, says John Pope, the poor are pretty much invisible decades after Dr. King began his War on Poverty. As a nation, we experienced a moment of illumination when Hurricane Katrina struck, and revealed the brutal inequities between the well-to-do and the poor. Half a year later, says Pope, the "poor are fading back out of sight." One out of eight Americans lives below the poverty line. He exhorts his fellow students and colleagues "to offer something to those less fortunate," whether resources or time. Stop and reach into your pockets and give to charities, he says, or write to a Congressman about keeping the nation's poor in mind when drafting legislation. Whether at an urban school, soup kitchen or shelter, he pleads, "Get off campus and give something of yourself."