In some ways I have come to dread the traditional Martin Luther King Jr. holiday activities, the same old events, the same old types of speeches and the same kind of people making the speeches. You know, the well-known I Have a Dream speech that repeats Kings dream for us, but doesnt capture the feeling of todays sleepers.
Yes, I did say sleepers. I, too, have been in a state of sleep with no expectation of waking up. Why should I? After all, in most of our minds, King was an exceptional man chosen by God to be the black Moses, sent to tell white America Let my people go. After all, thats not the average persons calling.
Well, the truth of the matter is he really wasnt all that different from most folks. He had goals, responsibilities and he had fear like any other human being. The thing he seemed to have more of than most is the courage to take a stand.
This year, I heard something new. I attended two events: the MLK holiday luncheon at the Lansing Center and the Kweisi Mfume march and talk at the Wharton Center.
The Lansing Centers speaker was the Rev. Wendell Anthony of the Detroit Chapter of the NAACP. Anthony is a celebrated speaker , but it was an unknown woman with a poem who inspired me. In her poem, she talked about having her own dream. She talked about the dream to have her ideas as a black woman taken seriously by white America. I can identify with her dream.
Later, I attended the Mfume talk at MSU. The program was set up to include an array of student leaders who would precede Mfume. I suppose it was like amateurs at a concert warming the audience for the main event, except the students amazed me with their speaking abilities and the freshness and substance of their talks.
One student talked about being black and broke on campus and having to consider quitting college and then remembering he was the hope and dream of his grandmother.
Another student who inspired me happened to be white. He used a scenario of King being outraged in heaven with the way blacks have misunderstood his movement. This student talked about the fact that King fought for integration and diversity and how it seems that todays black youth want the opposite. He cited the many public events in which blacks tend to gravitate to each other, such as parties and in college cafeterias. I recall feeling a bit uncomfortable and at the same time admiring this young man for saying something that took courage to say. The young man challenged us all to get out of our comfort zone.
I was disappointed to see that a school like MSU doesnt choose to show its respect for such a special human being as King. Although classes were canceled for students, all administrative offices remained open. MSU President M. Peter McPherson stated that the college is actively working toward creating an atmosphere of diversity and tolerance. Therefore, what better way to demonstrate the sincerity of these words than to make the entire day a time to come together as a diverse body of students, staff and faculty.
Well, the students stole the show, as it should be. After all, that is really our dream; for the youth of America to get fired up about something they feel passionately about, strong enough to take a stand.
office assistant/assistant to the director of the MSU Institute for Gobal Engineering Education