Living Like King: What is a Legacy?

Nicholas Tucker, News Editor

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Calls for peace, freedom and unity could be heard across the CWU campus on Jan. 16 as students celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and legacy. This was the 11th annual celebration, hosted by nine different departments and student organizations. Students, faculty and community members made signs and marched through campus before congregating in the SURC theater for the MLK Remembrance Program.

At the front of the Peace March was Andre Dickerson, Director of the Center for Leadership and Community Engagement, who could be seen with his fist in the air, enthusiastically leading the three dozen marchers in chants of “rights for all” and “the people united will never be divided.” Dickerson spoke on the importance of continuing to hold marches.

“We are here to do an act, to say that we are standing for equal justice, rights for all human beings. Whether that be for judiciary rights, social rights, we’re doing it through an act because that’s what King did,” Dickerson said. “Sometimes the act is just as significant as anything that can be done in legislation, or anything that can be done by way of the media or press, the physical act of us coming together in solidarity.”

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That act is a time-honored tradition, as 64-year-old Ellensburg resident Charlese Harris attested. According to Harris, she has been participating in marches like this since the 1960s in Yakima, Washington, and her sons started marching in the 1970s and 1980s.

“For these young people, it’s a learning lesson because a lot of people don’t know what the struggle was all about, fighting for rights or, right now, fighting for healthcare and a whole host of things,” Harris said. “As we unite and come together, they see that it’s a serious thing that we all need to participate in.”

The legacies of the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. King mean different things to different people. According to Dickerson, Dr. King serves as an inspiration for him to take action for what he believes in.

“There are a lot of fathers, there are a lot of husbands, there a lot of black men, but his actions were the things that allowed for him to be of service to others,” Dickerson said. “What his legacy means today is something for us to appreciate, but should remain a call to action for us to say, ‘What are we doing?’ I’m a humble father, I’m a black man, I’m a man of color, I’m a son, I’m a brother. But what am I actually doing?”

Freshman Abu Agyeman regards the celebrations as an opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices of civil rights leaders including Dr. King, Malcolm X and Harriet Tubman. However, according to CWU senior Mayowa Makinde, the legacy of Dr. King can distract people today from looking at the advancements of other leaders like Malcom X.

“I want to see more exposure for those ancestors because they were real people, they were not Kumbaya, they were ‘freedom by any means necessary,’” Makinde said. “Because it wasn’t pleasant to the powers that be, that’s why it’s thought that ‘let’s love everybody and sit around a fire and hold hands’ and so on.”

Congregating in the SURC Theater, students listened as ASCWU President Jasmin Washington reflected on her position as CWU’s first black female student president. She then handed over the mic for Aaron Duckworth to perform “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

Students representing the Black Student Union, the Chavez-King Leadership Program and Brother 2 Brother took the podium to speak on what Dr. King means to them, telling personal testimonials and reading spoken word poetry pieces. Musical performances by The Mel Peterson Gospel Ensemble bookended reflections by Nate McMillion, president of the Black Student Union, and Trevon Covington with the theme of “where do we go from here?”

“Let us continue to embrace one another regardless of identities. But most importantly, let us never allow anyone or anything waver us from the legacy that we are expected to uphold,” Covington said. “Brother King, we continue to thank you for your sacrifices while you were still with us on this earth, and we promise you that we will all make it to the promised land.”