It was an honor to witness the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration that took place on Thursday, Jan. 18. The event was illuminating, drawing many students and faculty members to the U building in commemoration of Dr. King’s life and legacy. There was delicious food for all attendees, and though the event started slightly later than anticipated, I would say the wonderful performances and speeches made up for it and then some. The event began with a few quotes from Dr. King, and some opening remarks by Bellevue College President Dr. David May. Next came Bellevue College’s Director of High School Initiatives Glenn Jackson’s passionate recitation of Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which he first delivered during the March on Washington in 1963. Shortly after, National Gospel recording artist Rosalynn Jones performed a beautiful, electrifying medley of various songs, including “Amazing Grace” and “Lean on Me.” Saying her singing was a highlight of the event would be an understatement.
After the first few portions of the event concluded, the keynote speaker was introduced. Dr. Bettina L. Love, hailing from New York City, is a professor at Columbia University, New York Times bestselling author and highly sought-after speaker. Her speech, paired with a digital presentation, had a duration of about an hour with an additional question and answer session at the end. It was truly captivating from start to finish. Dr. Love is an undeniably remarkable speaker, both in the content of the speech and her delivery of it. One of the main topics she discussed was how Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy has been warped. She explained how Dr. King’s work is often seen as a closed case, but in reality, he would still be fighting against the inequalities that persist into our age. She says, “we romanticize Dr. King as if he did not try to cash a cheque that is still insufficient.” Another main topic of discussion was the disparities in the education system that systematically target Black and Brown students in America today, stating, “the school system now is a backlash to gains made by the previous generation,” specifically in regard to police in schools, the D.A.R.E. program, and the prison-industrial complex, all of which did not exist in the era of the Civil Rights Movement, but have arisen in more recent decades and significantly disadvantaged students of color. The speech ended on an inspirational note, though, with her words, “if Black people haven’t taught you anything in the last 400 years, it is that we do not stop. We will not stop fighting … oh, how can you not see us, oh, how can you not love us. What an unbelievable people… what a profound sense of what humanity is.” The speech garnered Dr. Love a standing ovation, and the following question and answer session not only demonstrated Dr. Love’s intelligence, but also her abilities as a wordsmith as she connected with those asking questions so meaningfully. To learn more about Dr. Love’s speeches, books and more, visit her website at https://bettinalove.com/.
Overall, the event was wonderfully executed, honoring Martin Luther King Jr. By commemorating how his life, legacy and principles live on far beyond his untimely death. Everyone in the Bellevue College community should consider attending next year’s MLK Day Celebration.