January 16, 2018- Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy lives on beyond a street sign and a national holiday: his passion still dwells deeply today among many. At FSCJ’s MLK Jr. Remembrance Ceremony at South Campus on Jan. 16, a silent march commenced. Several dozen showed unwavering resolve, marching to effect change with tenacious silence.
The ceremony was a first for the college. Event organizer, Vee Byrd, who serves as FSCJ’s Associate Director of Diversity and Social Change, stated that the goal of the event was to be able to visualize history and see how it is still alive today. The attendees, representing a span across all ethnicity, gender, age, and race, walked past live reenactments depicting the worst of America during the civil rights movement and injustices that still occur. On one stretch of sidewalk, young men held their fists in the air; others knelt in protest. One young man was lying prostrate on the cold concrete with imitation blood drenching the sidewalk near his head. His presence, the representation of an innocent victim, created an ambience of disgust among the crowd and kindled murmurings of despair about the future of young African American men in American’s current state.
Women lined the sidewalks with signs that proudly displayed bold messages: “No more families torn apart,” “Black Lives Matter,” “We march for jobs for all now,” and “Coloreds Only.” One such sign held a message that seemed to initiate ripples through the crowd. Less than three weeks after the death of Erica Garner – the voice of national outrage following her father’s death during a 2014 brutal police arrest – the signs show that Eric Garner’s last words, “I can’t breathe,” still stand as a rallying call for action against excessive force and racial profiling.
“Are we close to where we need to be? What is our role? Have we gotten there yet?” Byrd asked the crowd.
Keynote Speaker and Kent Campus Student Government President, Ta’Nasha Parker, shared her experiences growing up in the “southern part of southern Georgia” and framed those accounts in the context of racism. As a young girl, where she was required to leave her backpack at the front of a local store while other white counterparts roamed freely, without restriction or suspicion.
Parker stated that as an adult, “I came to love and accept my blackness.” Parker hopes to serve in public office to assist lower-income citizens by providing education about sound economic principals to break the poverty cycle.
Jametoria Burton, Ph.D, FSCJ’s Associate Director of Program Development, left the audience with encouraging words of wisdom about how to prosper in today’s society. Burton encouraged the crowd to be courageous when dealing with skeptics, be comfortable in solitude, strive to seek to understand and be understood, and always love and serve humanity.
“Demonstrate perseverance,” Burton said. “Spend your energy on what is most important.”
By Seth Owen
All photos captured by Justin Eddins.