Breakfast Celebrates MLK DayBy Richa Maheshwari
Political commentator and author Tavis Smiley was greeted by a diverse crowd at the Twenty-Eighth Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Friday morning.
As he approached the podium, Smiley humbly took a moment to comment on the events which preceded him.
“Everything’s been said, it’s been sung. I don’t know how I was expected to run in the grand slam after two or three choirs, Eric, and 45 minutes behind schedule,” he said.
The presentations before Smiley spoke were impressive. South Central Mass and Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School Choirs started the celebration with inspirational songs. They were followed by speeches by Georgette M. Charles ’03, and R. Eric Caulfield G. Both speeches emphasized the importance of not only commemorating the man, but remembering his vision.
“As I look around at this celestial cornucopia of colors I know that I am seeing an illusion,” Caulfield said, hitting on the theme of this year’s program: “From Dreams to Reality: The Illusion of Full Inclusion.” He then went on to illustrate the low numbers of African-Americans and Hispanic students at MIT.
Charles touched on the importance of unity within the African-American community.
“Together we will break through the barriers and rise through the glass ceiling together,” she said. She was followed by the recipients of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership awards for 2002. The awards were presented to Dr. Paul E. Gray ’54, Dr. Randal Pinkett ’98, Sgt. Cheryl Vossmer of the Campus Police, and Tamara Williams G. Despite the length of the presentation, the audience responded positively to all the speakers.
Smiley encourages questioning
Smiley addressed a multitude of issues within his brief and engaging speech. He rejoiced in the progress made for African-Americans, but also pointed out that after Sept. 11, hate has found a new target.
“I do not feel safer because people from Arab descent are now the target. King would encourage us to reexamine our assumptions,” he said.
He later went on to make a distinction between patriotism and nationalism.
“Patriotism encourages us to ask questions, it demands debate and dissent. It encourages us to be better Americans by being a better neighbor in the world,” he said.
“We found ourself this mess because of the way we treat people around the world,” Smiley said. He encouraged people to ask tough questions about the government and media.
Smiley is now in the process of making sure that African-Americans are not left out of the Technological Revolution. With Bill Gates as a partner, he is traveling around the nation to educate people on the Internet and other technology.
In alignment with the title of his book, “How To Make Black America Better” he encouraged others to “pick up the pace” in their efforts.
Students involved in celebration
Although a 7:30 a.m. breakfast is not the most appealing idea to most MIT students, many were involved in the celebration of Dr. King. Long before the day of the breakfast, a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Design Seminar met in an IAP class led by Tobie F. Weiner, an undergraduate administrator in the Department of Political Science, and William Lark ’03, a student in the seminar last year.
“I was impressed with the energy of this year’s group. Usually there’s a lot of talk and big ideas, but things don’t end up happening like that. This year, the students were working so hard at the end to run to Home Depot and make sure the installation was perfect,” Lark said.
The first two weeks of the IAP seminar were devoted to watching films and discussing race. Later, the group split into three groups with different responsibilities.
Alexandra F. Awai ’04 and Raymond Morales ’02 led the installation group which assembled the display in Lobby 10. Terrence R. Strader ’04 and Aden M. Allen ’02 led the Media group which was in charge of making the videos of their events and a slide show that is displayed in Lobby 10 this week. John W. Pope ’03 and Carl E. Patten ‘02 led a kids’ group which designed an activity for Cambridge after school programs to educate them on King’s vision.
“We were surprised with how much the kids knew about King. In one activity we played with them we split them into two groups and treated one very well, and one badly. Later, we asked the how they felt and the ones who were treated badly said it made them want to give up. Then, we talked about racism and prejudice,” said Bukola Aina, a member of the kid’s group.
The IAP class size grew to 42 people this year, and the only complaint with the forum was the lack of diversity.
“I hope to get more people that aren’t minorities to participate in the class so more people an be educated about MLK and discuss solutions to race relations and equality,” Strader said.