Dr. King’s Commemoration

Last week was the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. UW-Platteville held multiple events throughout the week to commemorate him: a reading of Martin Luther King Jr.’s final speech, speaker assistant professor of ethnic studies Dr. Frank King and a unity march across campus. These events were planned and coordinated by people from Social and Environmental Justice program, Diversity and Inclusion, Ethnic Studies, Office of Multicultural Student’s Affairs and assistant professor of English Phillip “Pip” Gordon.

“While we celebrate MLK day every January as a way to honor his legacy, it is still important to pause sometimes to mark a specific anniversary just so that we never take for granted what he accomplished nor fail to take stock of the work we have left to do to honor and continue what he started,” Gordon said.

The inspiration to hold these events came from Gordon, who was born in Memphis and grew up knowing Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy because of the National Civil Rights Museum.

“I was interested in planning some sort of event, at least a reading of one of his speeches, to mark the 50th year since his death. I reached out to numerous folks on campus, and the Division of Diversity and Inclusion responded. The three-day commemoration grew from there,” Gordon said.

Gordon’s original plan for one of the events was to work with Sigma Tau Delta, the English Honors Society, to host a reading of Martin Luther King Jr.’s final speech, “I have Been to the Mountaintop.”  More people became involved with the reading, including the Black Student Union and Latino Student Union. Justin Toney, a student from the BSU, read part of “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” and reflected on his experiences from the event.

“The event was very inspirational due to the fact that we had many student leaders step up to take the opportunity to read,” Toney said.

After the reading, a discussion was held about what it means to be an ally and advocate on the UW-Platteville campus.

The second event held was keynote speaker Frank King. The overall arching theme of the discussion was the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Frank King discussed why it is important to remember all the work Martin Luther King Jr. did for fighting for justice, what people can do today to be politically and socially active and why they should be.

“It is important for more people in the community to understand that we all have the potential to do the work Martin Luther King Jr. did,” Frank King said. “To have the will and courage to enact social change is essential to move forward to a just society. It is our duty as global citizens to fight injustices.”

The final event was the unity march across campus. It began with the singing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by a local middle school student, followed by Pioneer singers. A message from Chancellor Dennis Shields was then played to the group about Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy. Finally, the march began throughout campus. An open-ended discussion followed the march, where people expressed their thoughts on Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and how it has impacted their lives.

“The unity march [gave] us an opportunity to come together as a community and hold an international reflection honoring Dr. King’s inspirational leadership and legacy,” director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs Angela Miller said. “It also provides a space for our campus community to show engagement in building on that legacy with their own actions and alliances with others.”