Martin Luther King, Jr., Honored with Remembrance and Reflection

Southern University Law Center Vice Chancellor John K. Pierre, right, greets students, faculty and staff following his talk in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., on January 22.

News Story: January 23, 2015

The continued turmoil of modern times and still fragile relations between races was brought into the spotlight Thursday morning, January 22, as Sacred Heart University faculty and students gathered to pay tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the marches in Selma, Ala., that sought voting rights for African-Americans. This was SHU’s second annual commemoration of the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday.

The dedication was presented by SHU’s Volunteer Programs & Service Learning department, headed by Matthew Kaye. “Dr. King envisioned a world that was at peace. His legacy challenges us to achieve that dream,” said Kaye. Program moderator Andrea Canuel, from Kaye’s office, added, “This is a reflection on how far we’ve come since the march on Selma and the work that still needs to be done, while helping us determine how we can give back to the community in a meaningful way.”

SHU Chaplain David Buckles opened the presentation with a prayer, offering, “One thing that has surprised me is we acknowledge Dr. King’s intellect but often overlook his faith. We refer to him as Dr. King but he may have preferred that we refer to him as the Reverend Dr. Luther King, Jr.”

Corey Parker, SHU’s United Campus Alliance president, also provided a welcome and played a pre-recorded original musical selection composed by Francis Mare titled Summer Remains. He was followed by Anita August, assistant professor in SHU’s Department of English, who noted, “Over 50 years ago, Dr. King challenged us to disturb the peace. The events of 2014 indicate that we need to continue to disturb the peace, as there is no justice, there is no peace.”

Parker’s and August’s remarks provided a set-up for the keynote speaker, Professor John K. Pierre. Pierre is the vice chancellor of Southern University Law Center. He connected SHU’s history with the turbulence of the early 1960s. “Sacred Heart was founded in 1963, the same year Dr. King was involved in an epic battle with Eugene Connor and Alabama Governor George Wallace,” said Pierre. “King was protesting segregation in public eating places, was arrested and, from Birmingham City Jail, penned his famous letter noting ‘I am in Birmingham because injustice is here… I am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own hometown.’”

King’s words and thoughts were “profound and prophetic,” said Pierre, who added, “As Sacred Heart was opening its doors to higher education, George Wallace was standing in a doorway at the University of Alabama blocking efforts to integrate the school.”

Pierre suggested that modern-day protesters take a cue from the words of Dr. King, who preached non-violence and said, “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.”  

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