Martin Luther King’s message resonates with SDSU students

by Devin Whatley, Staff Writer

As students enjoyed one of their final days of winter break on Monday, they also recalled the message of Martin Luther King Jr., a civil rights icon whose words take on a new meaning in the modern day.

International security and conflict resolution senior Angelica Espinoza said King’s ideas on civil rights are relevant with recent events of racial issues on campus such as the vandalism of the Black Resource Center and racist messages toward former student CJ Simmons

“These incidents of racism and discrimination on campus remind us that hate and violence are counterproductive for everyone involved,” Espinoza said. “Dr. King believed that we must choose love over hate and that injustice, not people, should be defeated.”

King was known as one of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement in America during the late 1950s to the late 1960s. He championed the idea of achieving change and equality in civil rights for African Americans through the use of nonviolence. King’s speeches and writings such as “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and “I Have A Dream” have been memorialized in American culture, language and teachings.

In 1963, King led a march for jobs and freedom for blacks in Washington D.C. He supported the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, legally ending segregation. His marches in Selma, Alabama and Birmingham, Alabama led to passing the Voting Rights Act in 1965, removing voting barriers for many African Americans.

When King was assassinated in 1968, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan introduced the first legislation to make a federal holiday in his honor — gaining nationwide support in the 1970s before it was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1983. 

For students, King’s ideas affect them in not just how they view issues around the country, but also how they view issues here at San Diego State. 

Political science senior Michael Wiafe said it is important to utilize King’s values and ideas and apply them to how we view race-related issues and conflicts on campus.

“I definitely think that a lot of his teachings are applicable towards our campus community,” Wiafe said. “We can’t walk around like it doesn’t exist as if we’re a perfect vacuum that doesn’t have a lot of negative influences and that we are in a space where we can deconstruct ideas and create a better generation for ourselves. As long as we continue to echo his teachings and others as well, we can continue to make differences leading forward.”

Students find King’s ideas connect with what goes on on campus and themselves personally.

Speech, language and hearing sciences senior Lauryn Merriweather said her favorite thing about King is his commitment to black excellence, which she strives for in her life as well.

“I love that MLK represents black excellence and change and inspires love and commitment to justice,” Merriweather said.

With Martin Luther King Jr. Day this week, Wiafe believes students should take time to learn and understand more about how influential King was as a person.

“I wish more people paid attention to Martin Luther King Jr. Day,” Wiafe said. “I think during times like this, when commemorating a leader, we could take a second to learn and see how we can create that for ourselves. It’s an interesting thought to know that one person’s existence can shape an entire nation.”

Even though King may be long gone, his legacy lives on.

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