Public Affairs

Remembering and Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

January 14, 2011
By Erik Fallis

As CSU campuses are closed  on Monday, Jan. 17 in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it is important to recall that this holiday is a national memorial of an inspirational life cut short by violence.  For many years, the CSU community has worked to advance and preserve King's campaign for civil rights, inclusion and understanding.  In fact, San Francisco State is the site of the nation's only College of Ethnic Studies that was established in 1969 through the efforts of a number of dedicated students, faculty and community members.  Statewide, many CSU campuses are finding their own ways to promote community, service and remembrance in order to pay tribute to King's legacy.

To emphasize the spirit of community, many CSU campuses are joining with their neighbors in celebration of King's life.  San Diego State students, faculty and administration will march as a campus delegation under a single banner as part of the city's 31st Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade on Jan. 15.  CSU Chico will also join their community by participating in activities organized by the Chico Peace and Justice Center.

In line with the spirit of service, CSU Bakersfield is partnering with Stop the Violence and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Kern County as part of a Community Clean Up honoring King's vision.  Students and staff from the Humboldt State University Service Learning Center and Youth Educational Services will be volunteering at United Indian Health Services Potawot Community Health Gardens.  They will be working  in the greenhouse, preparing soil, planting seed starts and generally helping in the gardens that serve local indigenous populations. 

Volunteers at San José State's AmeriCorps Bridging Borders program and Center for Community Learning and Leadership will be repainting the Santee Community Center - the community center which serves one of the highest need areas of San Jose.  Also, the volunteers will literally be tearing down fences, replacing an imposing 15 foot tall barbwired steel chain link fence and installing a more inviting and pleasant split rail wooden fence around the community center and land plot for the future community garden.

Students, faculty and staff from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo will be taking part in two service activities.  Cal Poly SLO volunteers are participating in the 3rd annual county-wide Food Drive organized by Central Coast United for Change and the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County.  Volunteers throughout the county will go door-to-door delivering bags and flyers asking for food donations for the Food Bank on Saturday, Jan. 15. 

Cal Poly SLO AmeriCorps VIP Fellows will also be partnering with the Boys and Girls Club of North San Luis Obispo County for the upcoming day of service.  This year, AmeriCorps members will be serving the Boys and Girls Club through maintenance and beautification projects in the morning including painting and sanding, and offering diversity activities for the children after lunch. The diversity activities include reading a picture book about King, creating a peace and social justice collage for The Boys and Girls Club to keep and an interactive discussion about racism.

Embracing the call for remembrance, the CSU will play host to numerous addresses, performances and discussions.  These events not only recall the civil rights struggles of the past, but also seek to understand how King's legacy is still with us and how the movement he came to define continues in our lives.  With many campuses still on winter break and empty of students, the memorials for King extend well beyond a single day with many events planned for when students return.  Discussions and lectures on the lasting impacts of King's legacy will take place at Cal State L.A., CSU Northridge, and Cal Poly Pomona.

The Center for Multicultural Engagement at CSU Channel Islands will host the performance “New Faces of America,” on Jan. 26.  The performance examines current issues that relate to people all across the country through a multi-media experience that merges video presentation with a live performer.

On Jan. 15, CSU Fullerton will host a breakfast featuring motivational speakers and a short play about HIV/AIDS prevention.  The play, “We’re All God’s Children,” was written by alumnus Austin Nation, a graduate nursing student, and examines the ongoing struggle and controversial relationship between the church and people living with HIV/AIDS.  Nation is also a Hearst/CSU Trustees' scholar.

Approximately 30 San Francisco State students through the Institute for Civic & Community Engagement have volunteered to assist with The 11th Annual Bringing the Noise for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Showcase, organized by Youth Speaks.

Finally, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library – a collaboration between the City of San José and San José State – hosts an entire series of events that started in January and will extend through March.  The extended celebration honors the memory of King, while examining his legacy and the ongoing struggles of people everywhere to realize the fulfillment of his dream in their own lives and those of their children.