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Martin Luther King Day

Martin Luther King Day

While some schools and businesses close in recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day each year, students and faculty at the University of Redlands shared in a celebratory service of the life Dr. King led and the legacy he left behind.

Leela MadhavaRau, associate dean for Campus Diversity and Inclusion, opened the 40-minute ceremony by challenging attendees to remember King’s pivotal question: “What are you doing for others?”

In order to create change, she said, we have to take personal responsibility for that change, “to take a risk and let our desire for change be known.” She recalled President Obama’s recent tribute to the victims of the Tucson shooting, suggesting that “everyone should strive to be better.”

ASUR President Nicholas Daily asked that we all look to MLK’s legacy for inspiration on how to better our world today.

“We can all learn from King’s powerful message of compassion, justice, love, truth, and non-violence, especially in light of the tragedies of the last few weeks,” Daily said, speaking of the Jan. 11 shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and others in Tucson, Ariz., and the shooting of four teenage boys in Redlands which resulted in two deaths.

Daily said Dr. King demanded that our daily actions serve our communities and contribute to a better world. “That’s what Dr. King did; now it is our turn.”

Nick and his brother Rick Daily offered the audience an a cappella performance of “Just a Prayer Away” and Bradley Franklin sang a spiritual, “Deep River” accompanied by Zachary Neufeld on the piano.

The main reflection for the day was provided by Race and Ethnic Studies professor Jennifer Tilton. Tilton emphasized Dr. King’s belief that change comes in times of tension. She challenged the audience to consider what causes Dr. King would be working for in 2011 and questioned how we could bring his legacy of social justice activism into this generation.

Tilton suggested that if we look at conditions of existing inequality in America, we will see “too many of the same inequalities today that Dr. King saw in his day.” Even after the election of Barack Obama, Tilton said, Martin Luther King might question how far we have come as a society.

While the shooting of two black teenagers in Redlands may have shocked the city, Tilton claims that these tragedies “no longer shock America.” If Dr. King were alive today, he would be fighting to end the “structural violence” that continues to segregate white and black Americans and he would refuse to accept social injustice as an inevitable condition.

It is clear to Tilton that society has not yet reached the radical social vision Martin Luther King proposed. “Martin Luther King would not want us to be satisfied. We are not there yet.” She called on Americans to “stop calling on leaders to save us” and be the leaders ourselves, dedicated to social change.

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