MLK’s legacy: promoting peaceful change

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On Monday, Jan. 16, we celebrated the life and example of Martin Luther King Jr. with the University of Dallas’ annual MLK Day celebration. This year, the university invited two special guests: Royalyn Reid, an entrepreneur and winner of the 2016 Dallas Business Journal’s Minority Business Award, and Dale Long, a survivor of the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., to speak at this event.

Both Reid and Long carried the same message for UD: promote positive, peaceful change in your community. Reid and Long reminded those present of the importance of giving back to the community that has sustained you throughout your life.

Long brought to light through his own experience in the 1963 bombing of his church that it was not too long ago, only about 50 years, that Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I have a Dream” speech.  His story brought the younger generation into touch with the civil rights movement. Long then related to the audience his experience when meeting Martin Luther King Jr. and how life-altering and profound that experience was.

Reid took the time to discuss what the term “civil rights movement” means. She defined it as peaceful movements to bring about positive change. When the moderator, Bridget Hyde, asked her whether the civil rights movement was over, she replied that it is not. She continued by saying that the civil rights movement did not take place very long ago, as Long had discussed, and continues to develop. She stated that with any movement, there are different phases.  We are now moving into phase two or three in this progression.

Reid also observed the effects of social media in relation to the civil rights movement. She stated that now, as real people broadcast their life experiences for the world to see, we can be more aware of how people of other races are feeling about the state of things without having a biased media take charge of how a race is portrayed. Reid highlighted how important it is to be focused on building relationships rather than being explosive in rhetoric. Neither peaceful nor positive change will be brought about through explosive attitudes on both sides because no agreements can be made in that situation.

One of the most valuable parts of UD’s Martin Luther King Jr. day celebration for me personally was the emphasis both Reid and Long placed on promoting positive, peaceful change in our own community in the spirit of MLK.

I spoke to Reid and Long afterwards, asking how the average UD student could realistically get involved in their community to act on this idea. Long recommended finding an organization and sticking with it, just as he had throughout the course of the 40 years he worked with the “Big Brothers Big Sisters” program.

Reid proposed a similar option for the UD student: find an organization in which you can apply your existing skills and passion, and stick with it. I asked her how she would instruct the college student to get involved when we have so many time constraints and limited transportation. She replied that volunteering does not have to be an everyday or even weekly commitment; volunteering can be a monthly event if you are strapped for time.

As a whole, UD’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration is a reminder to all of us to help our community and give back to that which has sustained us, remembering that we should all share the same dream of a better world for the future.

 

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