Members of the Northeastern community joined Boston high school students in celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Wednesday, the day that would have marked the civil rights leader’s 85th birthday.
The event, held in the Amilcar Cabral Center at the John D. O’Bryant African-American Institute, featured gospel music and personal reflections. It was part of Northeastern’s yearlong “50 Years Forward: The Journey Continues” series, which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Civil Rights Act.
“A big reason why we are here today and we are able to enjoy the relationships across cultures, across boundaries, and across religions is because of what Dr. King has meant to us as a society and a community,” Richard O’Bryant, director of the O’Bryant African-American Institute, said in his welcoming remarks.
In addition to honoring the Civil Rights Act, “50 Years Forward” is also celebrating the 45th anniversary of the O’Bryant African-American Institute and the 40th anniversary of the Department of African American Studies. The institute is named after John D. O’Bryant, Northeastern’s first African-American vice president.
At Wednesday’s event, the audience watched a TEDxTeen talk by Natalie Warne, who discussed her work with Invisible Children and what it means to be fighting for a cause from behind the scenes. Founded in 2004, Invisible Children works to bring awareness to the activities of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa, which has recruited thousands of child soldiers over the last 25 years.
Emmett Price, an associate professor of music and former chair of the Department of African American Studies, offered his thoughts on King’s legacy and told those in attendance to be like Warne and fight for what they believe in.
“Be the best you that you can be,” Price said. “Have the courage to be you. Today is the day where you hit the battlefield. Let King’s birthday be the day that stimulates you to move to greatness.”
First-year student and Ujima Scholar Derek Lindesay, ’18, told the audience he visited Northeastern when he was younger but never thought he would go to school here. “If it wasn’t for the sacrifices of people like Dr. King, for the people at the university who thought I could make it here, and for my family, I wouldn’t be here today,” he said.
Guests were also asked to share their thoughts on the impact of King’s legacy. Akira Brown, also a first-year student at Northeastern, noted that King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is akin to “seeing the beautiful colors of the world and accepting people for the differences they have.”
The event featured two rousing musical performances, with the Unity Gospel Ensemble singing stirring renditions of “Lord, You Are Awesome” and “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.”