MIT Honors King at Birthday CelebrationBy Kevin S. Subramanya
William H. Gray III, president of the United Negro College Fund and the first black whip of the U.S. House of Representatives, addressed about 1,500 people in Kresge Auditorium on Friday, Jan. 15 as part of MIT's celebration of the 64th birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
The theme for the Institute's 19th annual celebration of King's birthday was "Where do we go from here: Chaos or Community?" the title of King's last book.
The day's events began at 11:45 a.m. with a four-abreast symbolic march across Massachusetts Avenue to Kresge.
After being introduced by MIT President Charles M. Vest, Gray reminded members of the MIT community of King's symbolic non-violent revolution, which brought an end to segregation and changed this country forever. He said that soon after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to relinquish her bus seat to a white man, King became involved in the civil rights movement, which ultimately led to desegregation.
Gray added that before King became involved in the civil rights movement, blacks could not ride on buses, vote, or go to college. It was King's non-violent revolution, Gray noted, that made it possible for blacks to have these rights. Though blacks in America have "come a long way," Gray said there is still chaos, bigotry, and hatred in America that has to be dealt with.
As president of the United Negro College Fund, Gray works to provide Afro-Americans with an excellent preparation in every possible field of education, and he spoke on the importance of education. "First remember to achieve educational excellence. Second, do not just take care of yourselves, but also take care of the human community. Third, have a sense of tolerance, sensitivity, and brotherhood to overcome prejudice of all kinds. And fourth, never rest from the fight for justice," he concluded.
Vest related theme to MIT
Vest addressed the theme "Where do we go from here: Chaos or Community?" and its relation to MIT. Next, Vest pointed out that 15 percent of the undergraduate students accepted in 1992 were under-represented minorities, in contrast to the 8 percent accepted in 1980. He emphasized that his administration was working to increase this representation throughout the Institute.
Miasha N. Richards '95 and Adam Morales '96, and Maiysha Simmons and Adeline Rodene, from the Upward Bound program and Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, gave youth perspectives. Morales told how he was always inspired by King's words and how they helped him overcome racial tensions in his home town of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Rodene mentioned that it is important for everyone to carry King's ideals to their fullest extent. She also added, "Men of Martin Luther King's stature shouldn't be remembered only once a year, but every day of the year!"
In addition to the march and the speakers, there were performances from the MIT Gospel Choir, dancers, and Linda L. Hughes, who played the flute.