Africana Studies Department at SDSU: Martin Luther King Luncheon 2017
Its raining heavily on this January 20th 2017. The Africana Studies Dept. decided to go forward with its annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. luncheon celebration. This event has been sold out for weeks! Its theme: “Reclaiming the radical legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.” was selected and embraced by MLK Luncheon committee members last year.
Historical note for many under twenty five, for a Black person to boldly speak out against Jim Crow discrimination’s impact on minorities, especially Blacks during the 50s and 60s, it took depths of courage and was VERY radical!! Open discussion and criticism could result in more than threats, public humiliation, or physical beatings. This year’s luncheon served up a full course of corrective information. It was a timely reality check. How quickly we/they forget?
Consider, for some of our children whose history textbooks reduce the expanse of the Civil Rights era to two pages, how can they forget what is not published, what is not taught? A sense of depth and complexity has been erased. Family and community elders, educators, it is time to restore, share, discuss, engage our students in critical thinking about an era when the word equality was more than a 2 cent word tossed about in knee jerk reactive personal responses published on social media.
Photo highlights from the luncheon:
Administrators, faculty, staff, students, public officials, members of the faith community, and community members enjoyed the remembrance celebration. Despite challenging heavy rainfall, the crowd was buzzing with excitement and anticipation.
While audience members settled into their seats, I took time to document a few guests.
Opening ceremonies included thoughtful, emotional libation offered by Dr. Adisa Alkebulan
Senior Artisha Johnson sang a soulful rendition of what has been dubbed The Black National anthem, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” with lyrics by James Weldon Johnson and music by his brother Rosamond Johnson to open the luncheon, honoring another African American tradition of beginning events with song. Later in the program, Artisha sang Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On?” and rocked the house with her vocal interpretation of lyrics that foreshadows today’s socio-political climate.
Dr. Elliot Hirshman delivered an reflective, stirring, and insightful opening address
Coral MacFarland-Thuet, vocalist and lecturer in Chicano Studies at San Diego State University reached into our thoughts and consciousness with an a cappella rendition of Harold Melvin and the Blue notes’ recording “Wake Up Everybody.”
Keynote speaker Dr. Shirley Weber delivered a lets look at the real Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. perspective, confronting and dismantling media driven factoid platitudes often associated with who and what he was. Foremost he was a human being, subject to complexity beyond those one sentence quick- quotes we often hear this time of year as we approach Black History month. He was a Christian man of much faith. He was not perfect, but he believed that we as Americans are all striving for an existence in which we can be better. He entered into his testing ground and stood up for justice. Dr. Weber reminded us that like Rev. King’s era, our early 21st century is perhaps this present generation’s testing ground. Paraphrasing Dr. Weber: One gives witness to trials overcome. One can not give witness to that which one has NOT endured, overcome.
In the lyrics of Gospel song writer Kurt Carr:
Two Negro Spiritual implore us: “Hold On Just A Little While Longer” and “I Don’t Believe He Brought Me This Far to Leave Me.” Another Gospel song encourages us:” We’ve Come This Far By Faith.” Dr. King believed in a united America with a deep ethical spiritual commitment to all people’s well being. Yet, he knew better than most that true national unity cannot be bought, but it does have a cost.