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Inaugural Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration Urges Unity

O’Dowd’s Black Student Union (BSU) hosted a hopeful celebration commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. that featured songs, poetry readings, and spoken word.

At the event, held in the Theater during MP on January 19, Liana Willis ’19 challenged fellow students to heed King’s call for worldwide fellowship.

In his Nobel Peace Prize lecture in 1964, King said that although modern man had made spectacular strides in science and technology, there was an alarming poverty of the spirit. “The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers,” he said.

Willis pointed to various ways in which society fails to answer the call.

“How can we expect our communities to prosper when many of us go through life with our headphones in and heads down, more concerned with our cell phones than the brother or sister walking past us?” Willis questioned. “Why is it that people who claim to be about world peace use their words to attack others holding different views?”

Reflecting after the celebration, Willis said that now, more than ever, people must passionately work for change rather than sit passively. “We all have to stand up and fight, and I wanted to be a part of inspiring the students at our school to do that,” she said.

In a very personal and poignant presentation, Isaiah Henry ’18 talked about the losses of friends and family members to violence.

“We live in a broken society, where kids are not even safe. Man, lemme enjoy every minute with my loved ones and friends, because in this world that might be the last time I see them. Let me give harder hugs and hold on longer because it might be the last hug. This isn’t the world that Martin dreamed of. Where’s the brotherhood, the community of love?” he said.

This doesn’t have to be our reality, we can change our destiny, Henry said. “In the words of Martin Luther King, ‘Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability.’ Let’s begin to change so that when we leave there isn’t the slightest feeling of finality. Let us change so that goodbye, really turns into a later. Let us change, so that hug won’t be the last one. Let us change so that boys and girls have the opportunity to become men and women.”

While he was initially nervous about sharing his story, Henry said it was freeing as he had been carrying around unresolved feelings of loss for some time.

It’s important now, more than ever, to remember the ideals that King advocated – particularly unity, Henry said.

“Right now we have a divided nation. People need to remember that our forefathers fought hard for unity, and all this division is degrading their ideals,” he said. “Martin Luther King Jr. encouraged love, and there’s no such thing as too much love in this world.”


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