“I woke up this morning with my mind stayed on freedom” rang out in the Harbach Theatre as the Knox Choir opened the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation on Monday, Jan. 18.
This year’s event spanned a range of themes from Dr. King’s life and connected his legacy to current national events.
“Even after his death 40 years ago, the issues raised by Martin Luther King are as timely as ever,” Associate Professor of History Konrad Hamilton said in his speech.
Hamilton spoke of King’s transition from the South to the North and the tribute he paid to four African American girls who were killed by a white supremacist terrorist in a church. He paralleled the killings of King’s time to the current killings of Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice and Michael Brown that have ignited outrage throughout the nation.
Hamilton also referenced the 2016 presidential campaigns, reminding students that Bernie Sanders is running for president on a platform of economic justice, which he connected to Dr. King’s philosophy.
Three of Knox’s female students, freshmen Francesca Downs and seniors Nicole Hunter and Caitlin Watts, read famous poetry on the civil rights movement and human rights.
“I always like to have poetry, because poetry touches something in us” said Associate Professor and Chair of Gender and Women’s Studies Magali Roy- Fquire, who has organized the event for the past 15 years.
Despite all the work it entails, the convocation energizes her. “I have to give to it but it gives back to me so much,” she said.
Instructor of Africana Studies Kwame Zulu Shabazz, has also experienced the racism that has continued from Dr. King’s time. Growing up, the police paid him special attention. “I was stopped for running too fast, walking too slow, just being black, looking suspicious,” Shabazz explained.
Professor and Chair of Africana Studies Fred Hord also shared about the death of a student’s older brother who was killed by the police.
In separate interviews, Roy-Fquire and Shabazz both noted that African Americans’ fight for equality and freedom has helped to open up the world to many other groups.
President Teresa Amott quoted King from his 1967 speech on the Poor People’s Campaign in Riverside Church, New York City: “One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many fail to remain awake through great periods of social change.”
Roy-Fquire sees reason for hope when she looks at her students and the change towards which they are working.
“Young people are awakening beautifully and it’s scary and we need young people to participate, to give their energies, their thoughts and their love to the present and the future,” she said in a separate interview.