“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
On the evening of Monday, January 19th, students, faculty, and members from around the community came together in the Shaw Center to acknowledge and celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and all his many contributions. After a lovely meal and some small table socializing, Matt Frizzell, head of campus ministries, opened the evening by speaking of King’s work as a pastor, activist, humanitarian, and head figure in the Civil Rights Movement. “For many of us, MLK is kind of a mythical figure,” Frizzell began, “…It is easy for us to romanticize his work.” You see, King’s fight for equality and justice was not simply racial; it crossed all cultural, economic, and political lines. MLK’s vision for the country has by no means been fulfilled, as we have seen with the current cases in Ferguson Missouri, and Staten Island New York, but every call for justice is one step closer to Dr. King’s dream.
Junior Davin McKinney was the first of two guest speakers Monday night, using the given opportunity to let his voice to be heard. He spoke about his experience with modern day racism and stereotyping, as well as his hopes for the future. “I’ve been followed around grocery stores many times,” he reports, “After pulling out my debit card to pay, I’ve been asked if I wanted to use food stamps. But I’ve never been on food stamps in my life.” McKinney, who works four jobs to support himself and two children, has experienced firsthand the true nature of racism and discrimination, yet he remains a kind and understanding individual, hopeful of change. “Without MLK, I wouldn’t be here tonight,” McKinney announced, “and neither would my daughter.” When asked what he thinks will be the most important step moving forward with the dream, Davin’s answer was simple: Education. We end stereotypes with education. We must know the truth before we speak it.
So what does this mean for the Graceland community, and Lamoni as a whole? What were students supposed to take away from this event? First off, be assured, that if you missed the experience this year, we are proud to report that this was the first annual MLK dinner, and there will be more to follow in the years to come. As Frizzell mentioned in his closing speech, “We thought it was time to make an investment in this holiday,” to recognize and celebrate the lives of MLK and countless others, and to continue seeking the dream so many before us have believed in. Race on campus is something we still struggle to talk about, but the conversation starts here.