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Sunday, October 17, 2021

How the UC Davis community celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year

Students and faculty reflect on Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy

Over the years, UC Davis students and faculty have taken part in many celebrations and dedications honoring Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy. King’s assassination on April 4, 1968, had such an emotional impact on the UC Davis School of Law students, many of whom were active supporters of his mission, that they endeavored to have the law building named in his honor. About a year later, on April 12, 1969, King Hall was given its official name. King’s wife, Coretta Scott King, spoke at the UC Davis School of Law’s commencement a little over a decade later in 1981. Every year, the UC Davis School of Law holds the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service and Celebration around the community and at King Hall. 

This year, although no events were held in King Hall, law students, faculty and community members spent the day in service by participating in a blood drive at the King Hall parking lot and donating essentials that went toward Saint John’s Program for Real Change. Some participants also received training a few days in advance so they could inform community members in webinars where they provided information on CalFresh, housing evictions and how to determine eligibility for government benefits on the 18th.

Kevin Johnson, the dean of the UC Davis School of Law, helped plan this year’s service day with King’s values in mind. 

“The UC Davis School of Law community will help people in our community who are in need,” Johnson said via email. “Helping others is what Dr. King stood for.”

Elisa White, an associate professor of African American and African studies spent time in past years, before Martin Luther King Jr. Day was a federal holiday, working with organizations who were pushing for the holiday to be nationally recognized. This year, White said she spent the day in quiet reflection.

“After four years of the Trump administration and the larger administrative initiatives that were mostly antithetical to anything King would have advanced in terms of equality and rights in the U.S. and globally, it’s nice to step back and see what has happened in the past four years and reflect on why we still consider these same issues and have to every day,” White said. 

Isabel Nelson, a second-year international relations major and African Diaspora Student Success Center assistant, was the president of her high school’s Black Student Union and celebrated the day in past years by attending a walk with her family down Martin Luther King street in her hometown of Riverside, CA. As an artist, she created a digital portrait of King this year in celebration of his legacy. Nelson said that he thinks if King were alive to witness the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, he would have responded with dismay. 

“I know he’d be out there as the voice of our black community saying something about, ‘If those people were Black people, they would not have reached anywhere where they reached when they rioted,’” Nelson said. “Because if they were Black people, they wouldn’t have even gotten up the gate, they would have been shot dead, and I know he would have made that known and verbalized that to everyone.”

Armani Peterson, a senior career advisor for the Internship and Career Center, celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day by participating in walks that supported charities with his family and watching documentaries on the civil rights movement. Peterson believes that Americans can refer to King’s values when practicing patriotism.  

“What we can learn [from King] is that we can still care deeply about this country and still recognize the downfalls,” Peterson said via email. “We can be grateful to be an American but acknowledge the flaws in its execution of the laws. In order for us to be patriotic is to ensure that every person has an opportunity to pursue the best this country has to offer.”
Written by: Lyra Farrell — features@theaggie.org

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