Martin Luther King: Michigan Tech Celebrates a Legacy
by Erika Vichcales, student writing intern
Today is the day we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr., an American icon who is known for using nonviolent civil disobedience to progress towards civil rights. Michigan Tech’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion is hosting many events this week in honor of Martin Luther King.
Though this is the 25th year that Michigan Tech is celebrating MLK Day, the nation has been officially celebrating since 1986. It was a battle to turn MLK Day into a national holiday. Originally, King’s birthday--Jan. 15--was proposed as the date for the holiday. Then, for several years, states passed their own bills to celebrate the civil rights leader’s birthday.
In Nov. of 1979, a bill proposed to the US House of Representatives was defeated by five votes. This caused King’s wife, Coretta, to circulate a second petition to collect even more signatures than the one that led to the proposal that Congress voted down.
Musician Stevie Wonder joined Coretta King to fight for the bill. Wonder’s song, Happy Birthday, became an anthem for their cause. Mrs. King and Wonder brought a petition to Congress with six million signatures. A bill making MLK Day a holiday then passed the House by a vote of 338 to 90. After another struggle, the bill also passed the Senate, and President Ronald Reagan signed the MLK holiday bill into law on Nov. 2, 1983. The first official celebration occurred on the third Monday of Jan. 1986.
“To me it [Martin Luther King Day] means honoring a man who refused to back down from fighting for equality and justice for all, even when faced with repeated violence, he preached nonviolent, peaceful resistance, said Kellie Raffaelli, assistant director of Michigan Tech’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion. “Dr. King believed in equality for all, and he literally gave his life fighting for it. It is gravely important that future generations understand what he stood for and what he accomplished and what work still needs to be done to make his dream a reality.”
Events celebrating Martin Luther King’s life and legacy began on Sunday, Jan. 19 with an Interfaith Service in the Memorial Union, honoring the important role faith played in King’s life work. The week’s activities continue with:
* Today, a Day of Service Project. Students and staff volunteer will read about King’s life and work to students at Houghton Elementary and Barkell Elementary in Hancock.
* Today, the 25th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Banquet, 6 p.m. in the Memorial Union Ballroom. Max Seel, Michigan Tech provost and vice president of academic affairs, will give the keynote address, and Momentum Jazz Trio will perform. Tickets for the banquet are free and available at the Center for Diversity and Inclusion while they last.
* Tuesday, Jan. 21, Michigan Tech and Finlandia University faculty, staff and students will host a public discussion about social justice and equality titled “Where have we been? Where are we going?” The program will be in the Great Lakes Research Center Room 201 at 4 p.m.
* Wednesday, Jan. 22, there will be a viewing of "King: A Filmed Record." The documentary follows King from 1955 to 1968. It will be shown in Fisher Hall 135 at 7 p.m. The film is free and open to the public.