Each year on the third Monday of January, we remember Martin Luther King Jr. for his civil rights activism. At an international and national level King is recognized as a global figure. How has the UConn community retained and spread King’s legacy into their lives? On Jan. 20, 2022, UConn faculty, alumni and students gathered on WebEx at 5 p.m. to reflect on their stories of perseverance in honor of King during the 2022 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Living Legacy Convocation.
This year, Martin Luther King Jr. Day fell on Jan. 17, 2022. The Office for Diversity and Inclusion and Alumni Relations took the initiative to host several programs throughout the week to honor King’s legacy. On Monday, the Office for Diversity and Inclusion and Alumni Relations hosted the MLK Day of Service which featured panelists and workshops. On Tuesday, guest speaker Feminista Jones spoke to the UConn community during the National Day of Racial Healing.
The week ended with the 2022 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Living Legacy Convocation on Thursday. The convocation was hosted by faculty and showed several TED talk-inspired videos from the UConn community. Some of the speakers included Vice Provost Michael Bradford; Tony Omega, an academic advisor at UConn Waterbury; Dr. Khalilah Hunter-Anderson, assistant professor of emergency medicine; and Khamani Harrison, founder of The Key Bookstore.
“Today’s talk is a reminder that injustice may be deeply personal but that radical honesty and vulnerability enable us to question the system in our nation and in this institution that continues to perpetuate justice,” Franklin Tuitt, Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer of UConn, said. “The surest way to end injustice is to reveal it. I want to personally thank the brave souls who answered the call to share their stories tonight. I had a chance to preview your reflections and I was moved by your willingness to speak truth to power,” Tuitt said.
Omega explained his life growing up as a first-generation college student and financing education through student loans. He added that Black Americans are one of the largest populations affected by student loan debt in America. He warned that despite all the educational training he went through in college, it doesn’t equate to achieving class status. King’s achievements are present today but lingering challenges also remain, according to Omega.
Khamani Harrison started her TED talk about her college experience. From a young age, UConn was her dream school. While pursuing her bachelor’s degree, she was inspired by books. Harrison said she enjoyed one book so much that she was not only inspired but wanted to spread what she learned to others. The Key Bookstore hopes to encourage engagement with customers through activities, subscriptions and events. Harrison talked about how her ancestry and the words of King helped her persevere her idea, leading to her success.
King always made sure to give back to his community throughout his career. He was a pastor before assuming many leadership roles for the advancement of civil rights. For example, King served as a part of the executive committee at the NAACP. There, he led non-violent demonstrations and the bus boycott. King also wrote and gave speeches on the racial injustices throughout the U.S. He was constantly put in danger during the civil rights movement. King was later rewarded as the youngest man to win a Nobel prize.
King’s legacy not only showed how much he had done for the civil rights movement but his legacy continues to remain as a symbol of charity, perseverance and work that still needs to be done for racial equity and justice.