This year’s memorial and celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day began with the self-led peace walk that ran from Monday morning through Tuesday evening. The peace walk, hosted by the Black Student Union, began on the Redlands lawn where students scanned a QR code to individually listen to Professor Nicol Howard’s reflections of what it means to celebrate MLK Day.
Ayesha Morrishaw-Ashley ’23 said Dr. Howard’s narration was eye-opening because she admitted that her family did not encourage celebrating MLK Day, since racial inequalities continue to exist today: “[it] was surprising. However, it made sense because we are celebrating his legacy but all the inequality and lack of equity he was fighting for is something we still fight for.”
At the firepit, students scanned another QR code to see an illustration by student David Hazward ’22. Hazward says in their artistic statement, “Black women have always been, either in the background or the forefront and especially now, leading these really difficult conversations about what we want things to be like and how we want things to be structured.” Hazward’s art piece is dynamic and layered with patterns and bold colors, the focal point being a black woman with glowing green shades.
Hazward stated they were greatly inspired by the artist Dee Honeybee, known as “thefairyartmother” on Instagram, who specializes in illustrating black girl beauty.
When asked about which women came to mind when creating the piece, Hazward responded, “those in my own community and [with] intersectional identities. I learn the most from them and see all that they do. It’s what motivates me to push myself harder because they are a part of who this work and activism is for in the first place.”
The self-led peace walk also featured a promotion for the “Where Do We Go From Here?” Luminaria Ceremony hosted by Community Service Learning at the Hunsaker fountain on Thursday. Lit with plastic tea candles, glowing white paper bags twinkled in front of the big block letters “MLK Jr.” with goals and dreams written by students.
Prompted to write aspirations they want for their community, students anonymously wrote things such as:
“I have a dream… that learning and information will be more open and available to all people, no matter who they are.”
“Empower those who need empowerment… protect those who need protection… unite those who are divided… stand against those who are malevolent.”
“I have a dream that the political division in Redlands will be healed.”
Commenting that society is all too desensitized to seeing the loss of Black lives in the media, Maria Williams signed her name on her paper bag, a conscious decision to draw gravity to the mass violence against Black people. Her dream is to see her Black cousins and nephew be safe in this world and “stand a chance.”
Touched by her vulnerable sentiments, the Redlands Bulldog reached out to Williams, Assistant Director for Alumni & Employer Connections, for further commentary: “The part of the Peace Walk that resonated with me most was doing it alone, but not feeling alone. I did the walk on Monday, which was a rainy day, but it stopped right before I stepped outside, and the campus was so quiet and peaceful. The atmosphere allowed me space to reflect.
Williams continued, “On Dr. Nicol Howard’s video about her thoughts on Dr. King’s legacy, on the efforts of the MLK Steering Committee and the careful planning they put into the MLK Week of events, and on the role each one of us should play in upholding Dr. King’s teachings, legacy, and Dream. A sincere thank you to all those who contributed to the 5 stops in the Peace Walk.”
Based on King’s final book, “Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community,” this year’s celebration focused on community engagement in civil rights activism.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s activism is kept alive in the University of Redlands community when students and educators come together to host intimately engaging activities. As addressed by Dr. Howard, remembering Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and his legacy means picking up where he left off, reminding us that there is still much social justice work left to do.
Photo contributed by Bulldog photographer Kyle Eaton.