University Celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Week with Peace Walk

On Jan. 17, the University of Redlands hosted an all-campus Peace Walk to commemorate the work and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This event marked the first of several intended to invite students to reflect on the 2023 theme for MLK Week: “The Time is Always Right to Do What is Right.”

Students, staff, and faculty gathered on the quad in front of the Memorial Chapel Tuesday morning to listen to several speakers before beginning their walk in solidarity. The first key-note speaker of the morning was alumna Maggie Roupp, who currently serves as the Operation Specialist for the Johnson Center.

Roupp began her speech by reminding the participants that they are gathered on the quad to continue King’s legacy of hope. She spoke briefly about King’s legacy, highlighting that despite dedicating his life to the fight for racial equality, the Civil Rights Act passed following his death. She quoted King, stating that in his eyes, genuine equality is defined as “connection to and love for all humankind.”

Roupp closed her speech by asking the audience to reflect on two questions: “How can we help time not become an ally of the forces of stagnation? How can we use time to create a new future that reflects genuine progress?”

The answer?

“Show up for a cause, support the voices of others, and make your own voice heard.”

“Together we can help time be a tool for good,” Roupp concluded.

Following these opening remarks, President Krista Newkirk stepped forward to address the growing crowd forming in front of the chapel. Newkirk began her speech with a question: “How do we make time an ally to positive university change?”

She went on to discuss King’s legacy emphasizing the importance of the work he did during his lifetime and the growing support of his legacy in the modern age. Newkirk then asked the crowd to consider, however, how King was perceived in 1968: During his lifetime, 75 percent of Americans did not support King or his message.

So how did King “move forward when facing such adversity?” Newkirk asked. He had a vision to create “a place of equity where all dreams can be realized.”

Newkirk went on to remind the audience that King would have been 94 this year. The challenges he faced are not distant; they are still with us today.

“We are too quick to dismiss the struggle as history,” she stated.

Given this continuing social issue, what can we as an institution do? Newkirk commented that the first step is to speak about the issue open and honestly. She reminded the audience that the university made a statement in November 2020 that it does not condone racism in any form.

“But a statement is not enough,” Newkirk continued. She went on to say that the university has formed an anti-racism committee. “But a committee is not enough,” Newkirk stated, “but the call to action is.” Newkirk reminded the university community that we need to come together to stand up against racism.

Newkirk concluded by quoting King himself, “The time is always right to do what is right.”

Following President Newkirk’s speech, Renee Van Vechten, a professor in the Political Science Department, introduced her students. Each student came forward to recite a line from one of five speeches given by King during his lifetime.

Some of the quotes recited are included below:

“There is something in the soil that cries out for freedom.”

“We must meet hate with love.”

“Let us be dissatisfied until the day when nobody will shout white power nobody with shout black power but we will shout human power.”

“Freedom is not given by the oppressor, it must be taken by the oppressed.”

“It is non-violence or it is non-existence.”

Following Professor Van Vechten’s class, the Chapel singers were invited to present an offering. Gatherers became silent as they listened to the voices ringing through the quad.

At the conclusion of the Chapel singers presentation, the participants were invited to begin the Peace Walk across campus to Hunsaker Plaza. There, they engaged in several songs and chants to commemorate King’s message.

Photo by Section Editor Kirsten Marsteller.

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