U. of C., BSA commemorate 50-year anniversary of MLK

Discussions, panels will push local activism, nonviolence

Priyanka Shrijay, Opinion Editor

As the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination approaches, a University of Chicago educator has launched a plan to expand and enrich programming related to King’s work. Through partnership with the RainbowPUSH Coalition, Liberty Baptist Church and others, the initiative will provide activist programs like forums and readings to commemorate and promote King’s belief in nonviolence. Events will continue through the spring.

Dr. Bart Schultz, the director of the Civil Knowledge project and senior lecturer in the humanities, started the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Initiative, which began Nov. 4 with an open house and information session. Following that was a “Reading King” event at the Liberty Baptist Church, where  attendees read some of King’s powerful works.

Dr. Schultz said, “We had a wonderful group of Lab students there, and talked with students from other schools and various South Side community members about some of Dr. King’s writings, particularly ‘What is Your Life’s Blueprint?’”

Particularly pertinent to students, this reading is a speech King delivered at a Philadelphia high school, which calls to their attention the importance of having a strong sense of self as they consider their plans for their future.

Attendees were also treated to remarks by Rev. Damon Smith and were given the chance to discuss King’s legacy with one another.

The discussion about King’s philosophies sparked thought for senior Miranda Mireles.

“Something that really stuck with me was one of Dr. King’s beliefs, which is everybody is your neighbor,” Miranda  said. “It’s the idea that we are all on this earth together and we should respect and acknowledge everybody and their beliefs and opinions.”

Senior Elizabeth Van Ha had the chance to discuss Dr. King’s legacy with a senior from Magic Johnson Academy High School — an experience which allowed her to learn from another student’s educational experience.

“I did not think about the fact that other high schools located in Chicago, which has had its fair share of race riots and civil unrest, were not aware of who MLK was besides the fact that he was a hero to many,” Elizabeth  said. “In the readings and discussions, I had heard some of the opposing perspectives before, but for my partner it was her first exposure. It really opened my understanding to the educational system in Chicago and also got me thinking of the historiography of MLK.”

The University and Lab communities have and are encouraged to take part in the Initiative’s events. On Jan. 13, there will be a “Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Tour and Discussion,” led by Professor Timuel D. Black who worked directly with Dr. King. Other January events include the annual RainbowPUSH MLK Breakfast, the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Day, and the U. of C. Martin Luther King Jr. event at Rockefeller Chapel.

On Feb. 24 there will be a panel discussion and historical re-enactment of when Dr. King was heckled by supporters of the Black Power movement at Liberty Baptist Church in August 1966. 

At this event, attendees will debate the legacy of Dr. King’s nonviolent action. The major event — a memorial to Dr. King — will take place on April 4.