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WU hosts 32nd annual MLK celebration

| Senior News Editor

Washington University hosted its 32nd annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration, entitled “Struggle, Dedication and Progress…” in Graham Chapel Monday.

Following an introduction by Student Union president senior Grace Egbo and Association of Black Students president senior Jasmine S. Pickens, the commemoration opened with performances of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by the Visions Gospel Choir and “I Dreamed a World” by the Washington University Chamber Choir.

Chancellor-Elect Andrew Martin gave opening remarks. He reflected on the Civil Rights movement and the progress and struggles both the University and wider community faces.

“Here we are, 50 years later, embroiled in another civil rights movement in the United States of America. 50 years later, and people of color are still being profiled. 50 years later, and racial equality is still not fully realized,” Martin said. “50 years later, and some members of our mainstream society seem to have lost sight of the restraint, compassion and insight that Chancellor Eliot exemplified when he met with members of the Association of Black Collegians in our very own Brookings Hall.”

He then referenced the 1968 Brookings protests and how the University community has been working to address issues on campus, specifically referencing enrolling a more diverse student body, increasing socioeconomic diversity through financial aid, addressing employment conditions and police relations.

“I will commit to fostering a Washington University community that mirrors the microcosm of our nation and our world,” Martin said. “I commit to recruiting, enrolling, retaining, training and empowering students, scholars, practitioners and staff…I will commit to recruiting the very best talent to this place regardless of previous opportunities and ensuring that all people feel that their voice and presence are welcomed.”

Black Anthology also performed a selection from their upcoming show, paying tribute to black female poets.

Then, keynote speaker Civil Rights activist, writer and veteran journalist Rev. Dr. Barbara A. Reynolds spoke on King’s legacy She paid special attention to the work and legacy of Coretta King.

“I thank this university for focusing not only on Dr. Martin Luther King, but also Coretta King because they were two souls with one goal. And that was creating a loved community that would honor all of humanity regardless of race, color or creed,” Reynolds said. “Coretta King was a co-partner with her husband in executing one of the most successful, non-violent human rights movements in the world. This success is not just history…it is also her-story.”

Reynolds said she doesn’t see many examples of individuals in “higher places” with the “moral excellence” of Coretta King. She defined moral excellence as being synonymous with one’s character and that the moral excellence she saw in Coretta King was that “her crusade was above politics.”

“We have Donald Trump saying he’s proud to close down the government until he gets his five billion dollars,” Reynolds said. “Closing down that government means 800,000 people are out of work; and if they’re like me, they live paycheck to paycheck…800,000 people so afraid they can’t pay mortgages—they don’t have money to buy life-saving medicine. They’re doing all of this for what? To keep brown people out of the country so he can help make America white again. That’s evil.”

Following Reynold’s address, Chancellor Wrighton and his wife, Risa Zwerling Wrighton, were presented with the Rosa L. Parks Award for Meritorious Service.

The Visions Gospel Choir performed “A Change is Gonna Come” before Provost Holden Thorp gave his concluding remarks. The commemoration then closed with a performance of “We Shall Overcome” by the Visions Gospel Choir.

“Dr. King said, ‘I’ve been to the mountaintop and I don’t mind.’ What does that mean for Wash. U.?” Thorp said. “It means we must go to the mountaintop not just on Martin Luther King Day, but every day.”

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