Emporia State began its week of remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the 51st anniversary of his death, with a candlelight vigil inside the union Monday afternoon by Diversity Student Programs.
Staff, students and members of the community attended, holding candles while listening to excerpts of Dr. Kings speeches and reflections by attendees. Deanna Williams, director of student programs, began the event with a reading of King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”
“What Martin Luther King means to me, as you can tell I am a black man and if you look around the room I’m one of two who are in the building on Martin Luther King Day,” said Gary Woods, football captain and senior marketing major. “He was my greatest example, he was the one we get in the history books…try and think of the black men in the 60s. Think of Cassius Clay, Jimmy Hendrix, Dr. King…the likes. He preached unity not only for black men but for all.”
Martín Salazar, sophomore undecided major, shared how prevalent King had been in their educational journey.
“He has always been there, in every single class I’ve ever taken,” Salazar said. “It really hurts me to see that not more people I would like to be hearing this are here, which is something we should really be pushing for.”
Tiffany Sanders, junior elementary education major, spoke to the importance of educating ourselves despite the discomfort we may face.
“Things do happen and it’s the best thing we can do to recognize it,” Sanders said. “When we do recognize it we can move forward and try to break the cycle that happens…trying to be a future educator, one of the only black females in my education program and becoming the difference in other people, since a lot of people don’t hear about black history, since it only happens in February, the shortest month of the year, is important.”
Shifting focus to the staff and community members in attendance, Michelle Hammond, dean of university libraries and archives expressed her gratitude to the willingness of students to share.
As the vigil ended Kristan Gilmore, junior sociology major spoke about how grateful they were for all the opportunities that King had provided them.
“Even though his life was lost I still get to learn about him in classrooms,” Gilmore said. “Maybe he was afraid to do those things all the time, but he did them anyway, that takes a lot of courage, a lot of power regardless if it costs you your life. So I don’t even think he deserves a day, I think he deserves a lifetime.”