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How students, community members advocate for change through MLK Day march

January 9, 2024
<p>Community members march at MSU's 2023 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative March from Beaumont Tower. Photo courtesy of MSU by Derrick L. Turner.</p>

Community members march at MSU's 2023 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative March from Beaumont Tower. Photo courtesy of MSU by Derrick L. Turner.

Since the rise of the Civil Rights Movement in 1954, protest marches have long been a form of activism in fighting to end racial segregation and exclusion. It was at the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, held in 1963, where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the exalted "I Have a Dream" speech.

In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Michigan State University is holding its annual commemorative march this upcoming Monday, Jan. 15. Starting at 9 a.m., the march will begin at the Beaumont Tower and conclude across the street from the site of the MSU Multicultural Center.

Communications senior and member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Brandon Foster is one of the coordinators for the 2024 MLK Commemorative March. For Foster, who was also coordinator last year, the march "means a lot to him" because it brings diversity, equity and inclusion within MSU.

“That’s something we are still striving towards,” Foster said. “We need to take those steps and this march is definitely something that commemorates those values that I aligned with. I believe that they truly symbolize the spirit of peaceful protests and civil rights activism that (Martin Luther King Jr.) stood with.”

As a key figure in the Civil Rights Movement, King participated in many important marches, like the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches, preaching nonviolent protest.

 “I think that what protests have really taught us nationally, but also globally or transnationally, is the ways that communities learn from one another,” LeConté Dill, African American Studies associate professor and director of graduate studies, said.

Dill was the keynote speaker for the university's MLK march last year, and although she didn’t march herself, she said the event showed “solidarity of community building.”

“There’s usually marches in various communities,” Dill said. “You begin the conversation across the country or world on MLK Day. We're commemorating this important figure that was assassinated... in a very violent way. We are reclaiming joy.” 

Dill said she believes joy and social justice are what centers the building of communities.

“From what I've seen, (in) the pictures and the stories around the MSU marches you see the diversity, not just like ethnically diverse, but the different types of personality,” Dill said. “Seeing the annual march on campus, I am reminded wherever I am around the country, let alone world, that there are similar solidarities.”

Dill noted that public presence was crucial in marches during the Civil Rights Movement. Now, protest work within marginalized communities has brought focus back to cultural rituals, she said

“With the Black Lives Matter movement, people (are) marching in the street and protesting, but you've seen some ritual work, like ... saging or smudging, bringing in African diasporic Black and Indigenous traditions,” Dill said. “Those different rituals are a really grand part of protests.”

Foster emphasized the importance of Martin Luther King Jr. in his life and said the marches held on Jan. 15 will symbolize civil rights activism and peaceful protests

“I know we're not perfect, but (King) made people come together because we were very segregated back then,” Foster said. “Now, we're going to Michigan State University where there's so many people of different races, ethnicities (and) sexualities.” 

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