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Remembering King’s legacy with a week of events

by Thao Nguyen ’15

Each year Cornell hosts a week of events to remember and honor the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. In 2013, the events included a candlelight vigil, a day of personal sharing and remembrance, and three discussions of contemporary race and class issues as portrayed in movies and television shows.

Martin Luther King Day Vigil

Annual candlelight vigil honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The week began with a Sunday evening screening and discussion of the movie “The Interrupters,” the story of three Chicago residents who work to prevent violence in their communities. Two similar events followed during the week: a discussion of the messages in the animated television series “Boondocks,” which details the experience of two African-American youths after they move to a white-dominant neighborhood, and a screening of the documentary “First Generation,” which follows four students striving to be the first in their families to attend college.

On Martin Luther King Day on Monday, the Black Awareness and Cultural Organization (BACO) coordinated a memorial on the Orange Carpet in which students, faculty and staff shared how Dr. King had influenced their lives. Performances ranged from poetry to dancing to reading parts of Dr. King’s speeches.

On Monday evening, Cornellians attended a candlelight vigil, a long-standing tradition on Martin Luther King Day. Led by College Chaplain Catherine Quehl-Engel, participants visited various trees planted on campus in honor of Dr. King. They listened to the history behind these trees, which were replanted after being chopped down at various times in the past by acts of vandalism, and which continue to stand as a symbol of Cornell’s support for Dr. King’s legacy.

“We need to reflect back in order to move forward,” said Ken Morris, director of Cornell’s Office of Intercultural Life. “A lot of work remains for us, individually and collectively, so thinking about Dr. King and the civil rights movement reminds us what happened and helps us learn from the past.”

Or as senior Jacob Strain shared through his memorial poem about how it is easy to feel good about ourselves because racism is over: “I feel the need to say ‘racism is not over, and neither is hate.’ Now get off your ass and do something!”