MLK Day: Connecting Past & Present

Dateline: student newspaper

By: Monica Brucher

Every year, we honor Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 16. For most students, this Monday off is to catch up on schoolwork or get some extra rest.

Black Student Union President, Aquashia Peterson, said for many students at the Mount, however, this is a day of reflection and service.

“MLK day is important because it helps us remember,” Aquashia Peterson said. “MLK helped create change in America by fighting for the equality of blacks.”

Habitat for Humanity MSJ Chapter President Amanda Schrand said the purpose of having the day off isn’t just to catch up on homework.

"’A day on, not a day off’ means that we are using our time more wisely on a day that is reserved for remembrance,” Schrand said. “On days off, we tend to relax and sleep in but Habitat wanted to spend this day in a different way.”

It’s purposeful how MLK’s values align with those of the University’s, Peterson said.

“MLK’s principles align with the Sisters of Charity’s principles by fighting racial and gender injustices in a peaceful and elegant manner,” Peterson said.

Schrand said the idea of a Habitat build on MLK Day came from students being available since there are no classes.

“Habitat for Humanity wanted to do something in place of being off from classes, so we thought it would be a nice day to volunteer,” Schrand said. “Habitat provides an indoor build for MLK Day while the Black Student Union and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion provide the March piece.”

The Habitat for Humanity build will take place on Monday, January 16, 2016 at 8:00am-2:00pm and the Cincinnati Commemorative Civil Rights March will take place from 10:00am-1:00pm.

Schrand said this is just another day for her—one that makes an impact.

“For me personally, it is another opportunity to make a difference in the world,” Schrand said. “I am constantly involved or volunteering so this is just another fantastic day that I get to be a world-changer.”

Schrand said other students should be involved in this experience, too, especially considering this year will be a memorable one.

“Students should be excited about this volunteer day because it is very unique, especially this year. This year we are able to have this event on campus and have Habitat bring the materials to us,” Schrand said. “Students should also be excited because they get to make a difference in many lives.”

Peterson reflected on her past experience at the MLK Day March.

“During the beginning of the march we hear prayers not only by Christian preachers but also from Rabbis and Imams. We usually begin at the Freedom Center and march to Music Hall where there are performances that celebrate multiple cultures,” Peterson said. “Martin Luther King's commemorative March is important because we can see his dream of a interracial and intercultural accepting America happening at that very moment.”

Schrand said the connection between past and present is very prevalent with this holiday.

“MLK Day is important because we are not just volunteering, but we are volunteering for an important event in history…it is prevalent to what is going on in today's society,” Schrand said. “So we see that it is necessary to spend this day volunteering for the betterment of our world.”

Peterson said the missions of the Black Lives Matter movement and the mission of MLK are very similar.

“Black Lives Matter Cincinnati mimics Martin Luther King’s approach of non-violent strategies of fighting against political repression, racism and violence the American government presses upon people of color,” Peterson said.

Peterson also talked about how people are misleading when they use the controversial term, “all lives matter.”

“When someone says all lives matter they're enabling racism by halting a movement for the advancement of blacks,” Peterson said. “People often use the term ‘all lives matter’ in order to discredit Black Lives Matter. We all know that everyone’s lives are important, however the American government continues to demonstrate that black lives are less important than white [lives].”

Peterson thinks a lot about how the past affects our future. She reflects on the shaping of our country and how it affects race relations today.

“After all we just gained our rights in 1964, which isn't that long ago. When the Constitution was written it didn't have us in mind. We had to earn the right to read, write, to sit where we want in public places, to vote and more,” Peterson said. “A lot of people expect us to forget what happened to us because it’s in the past but it's still happening to us in the present.”

Peterson said it’s not that all lives don’t matter—it’s that some lives are overlooked.

“If you're white you are allowed to live in a color-blind society; however. people of color face racism everyday,” Peterson said. “Unarmed Blacks are shot at two and a half times the rate as whites by police officers. Public schools in predominately black neighborhoods [have] less funding than ones that are in predominately white neighborhoods.”

Peterson said this is not an issue that’s growing old, that it’s been relevant and continues to stay relevant in our own community.

“Gentrification is happening in downtown Cincinnati right now,” Peterson said. “I do usually support and attend Black Lives Matter events…it saddens and angers me that we are still fighting for our freedom.”