Cal State Long Beach held its 18th annual Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration this Tuesday in the University Student Union ballroom. The event honored King and his role in the civil rights movement throughout the 1960’s.
This year, the CSULB American Indian Community Drum, led by professor and chair of American Indian Studies Craig Stone, opened the event with a performance.
“Our theme today, our collective commitment today, is the courage to act in this moment of history,” James Sauceda, director of Multicultural Affairs, said. “This is the time for vigorous and positive action.”
Each year, a theme for the celebration is chosen to outline the focus of the event. Last year, the title “Peace and Diversity” emphasized the importance of diversity and justice for all people. The topic this year, “The Courage to Act,” focused on the change that students and the general community could have on the world.
“Not with violence, but with resistance,” Sauceda said. “In order to face and fight injustice.”
The celebration then continued with a few words from Maulana Karenga, chair of Africana Studies. Karenga gave a libation, or the pouring of a drink into a plant for all those like King, who fought for the civil rights of all people. He also expressed his hope that people not forget those who also fought for justice but were never acknowledged in history.
Sauceda explained that King is often said to have expressed that non-violent resistance is “a courageous confrontation of evil by the power of love.”
“America has changed since I was here last year,” said William Smart Jr., a local pastor who gave the keynote address. “I got my start in 1968 at the age of nine. A lot of things happened in 1968. In April of 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. A lot of things were going on.”
He highlighted the value of the life of young people and the importance that their decisions and initiatives on important matters could have. “Somebody has to stand up right now,” he said.
Smart highlighted his faith and continued to encourage the change that he himself attained through his religious beliefs and inspiration from King.
“My life changed again when Martin Luther King’s teachings came into my life,” he said. “… What you gonna be? What you gonna do? Are you gonna have the courage to act today or just sit there and do nothing? I want you to be freedom fighters.”
A final poetry reading was given by CSULB Slam Team Poet Sheila Sadr. In her poem, she touched on the various similarities between the first ever-pixilated picture of earth and the all people in the world, saying, “The image of this pale blue dot is meant to inspire understanding.”