Community reflects on King’s vision

By Rebecca Sweeney

Krissalyn Booth braved temperatures in the teens on the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day to participate in a commemorative march that began UK’s second annual student vigil, titled “King’s Dream is Alive.”

Booth, an English sophomore, said she celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day because it’s important to respect the civil rights movement.

“Martin Luther King was a man of faith, and a man of God, and he fought for the equality and rights of everyone, not just black people,” Booth said.

Marchers watched on Sunday as students acted out silent scenes depicting hate crimes of the past, which Booth said helped remind students of how things were prior to the civil rights movement.

“I hope people will not become numb to the people before us that have paved a way so we can have the rights that we have,” she said. “The visual scenes give a better portrayal of what happened.”

Veleashia Smith, director of the UK Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Center, said the scenes were designed to make students think and form a personal reaction to the news they see on television.

“It’s one thing to watch in horror the devastation that happened to our fellow New Orleanians, but how did it make you feel to walk by the scene and actually see one of the images? That’s the purpose of each scene,” Smith said, “to challenge what you thought you knew and hopefully make changes in yourself and have more respect to those struggling around you.”

Smith said for her, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a holiday of deep reflection and honor.

“Reflection for the work that still needs to be done in our society, and honor for my ancestors who paved the way for me to get to where I am now,” she said.

After the march, students and faculty held midnight presentations at the Worsham Theater, followed by breakfast in the Student Center lobby.

During the presentations, Student Government President Nick Phelps urged students to stretch their boundaries and broaden their horizons.

“It’s time to change the ‘me’ society to the ‘we’ — there should be no solo action,” Phelps said. “You’re a lot stronger with another person beside you than you are by yourself.”

Juan Espinosa, a political science junior, said King’s words and wisdom are the root of a better world.

“As university students and the future of this nation and the world, we have to follow the passage of Dr. Martin Luther King by educating ourselves and learning about and respecting others,” Espinosa said.

Following the annual march through downtown Lexington yesterday morning, Freeman Hrabowski, the president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, spoke at Heritage Hall downtown.

He urged people to consider what King said: “What you do today will affect those unborn.”

Hrabowski encouraged people to not focus on the past as an excuse and, instead, to use the past to motivate and achieve success in the future.

Hrabowski said young people can do anything if they focus on their thoughts, words, actions, habits, character and destiny.

“What will you do when nobody’s watching?” Hrabowski asked the audience. “There’s your character.”

Regina Lewis, an agricultural biotechnology freshman, was one of nearly 70 people who met Hrabowski on Sunday evening at a “Student Conversation Hour” for science, technology, engineering and mathematics majors.

Students in the group conversation discussed what it means to be smart and to do their best, Lewis said.

“He gave all of us advice to use our resources, to study and interact with people of all ages, races, and backgrounds, and not to let ourselves become a victim,” she said.

Lewis said she sat in the front during Hrabowski’s speech at Heritage Hall so she could be engaged in the presentation.

“His words motivate me to study hard so I can become Dr. Regina Lewis and I can use my resources to improve my knowledge and … to help others achieve success,” she said.