Students, faculty commemorate King

By Brenden Walz

A group of over 100 NIU students and faculty gathered Tuesday night to commemorate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

The Holmes Student Center Regency Room was the site for the event, which was held a day after the King holiday because the university was closed.

The event featured speeches by NIU student leaders and administrators including Student Association President Preston Came, Black Student Union President Maria Waller, Vice President for Student Affairs Barbara Henley, and the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church Rev. Leroy Mitchell, who gave the keynote address.

“What Martin Luther King stood for was a common view of justice and what we need to remember is he believed we could all communicate on our views of right and wrong or justice,” Preston Came said. “What we need to do is remember this. King’s message was that we can communicate with each other what we believe to be right and wrong.”

BSU President Maria Waller said that Reaganomics and institutional racism are still around today.

Waller said the beating of Rodney King by a group of Los Angeles police officers and the emergence of David Duke were good examples of this type of racism.

ecalling a speech she had heard recently, Barbara Henley said King’s dream has turned into a nightmare.

“If King were here today, he would go to Springfield and say you cannot balance the budget on the backs of the poor and homeless,” Henley said.

“We have a continued responsibility to make the dream a reality,” she said. “Because if we don’t do so, we will never have a tomorrow.”

In his keynote speech, Rev. Leroy Mitchell talked about the “peaceful armies” King led in the movements of the 1950s and 1960s. He also said he stressed the need for new leaders today.

Mitchell told the students gathered at the event they “were in the right place at the right time.”

He said students’ education at NIU would prepare them to be the leaders of tomorrow’s “peaceful armies.”

While the “armies” King led included African-Americans who were employed as domestic houseworkers, Mitchell said the members of today’s armies include people addicted to drugs, AIDS victims and those in jail.

“They need a leader to let them know they are somebody,” Mitchell said. “Don’t worry about who the army is made up of.”

“If you can touch one, then your living isn’t in vain,” he added. “It may be one person, it may be five, it may be ten million.”