by Kathryn Lieder
This past Tuesday, January 26, countless Boston College students, faculty, and community members filled Gasson 100 for the Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Gathering. This Campus Ministry Event, organized by the MLK Memorial Gathering and Steering Committee, included scripture readings from the Old and New Testaments, enlivening musical selections by The United Voices of Freedom, breathtaking spoken word performances by Soul Type Poets, a deeply moving dance performance, and a profound spoken word performance by Brittany Packnett.
Vice President of University Mission and Ministry, Father Jack Butler, reflected on the title of the event, “Are we still dreaming?” stating, “I hope we’re still dreaming, because if there’s a thing in this world better than dreaming, I don’t know what it is.”
“Dreamers push the horizon and push the possibility of what might be and yet we fear them,” he admitted. Fr. Butler’s remarks set the tone the evening. The gathering was a time for honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., reflecting on our ability to change complacency into action, and being challenged to look forward and join the many determined leaders on and beyond our campus who stood up to speak the truth unapologetically and leave the audience empowered to push for real change.
James Kale, II, LSOE ’16, chair of the MLK Memorial Gathering Steering Committee, stated, “Before Dr. King there was a constant and widespread dream…the dream is one of the few things that has survived. ”
“Don’t be there for me, but be there with me,” he continued. “The struggle continues, but does this dream continue alongside it?” he asked the audience.
A few members of the BC Community from Soul Type Poets shared chilling spoken word performances focused on the theme of liberation, followed by the announcement of the 2015-2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Scholar, Cai Thomas, MCAS ’16.
Karl Bell, Assistant director of Student Organizations in the Office of Student Involvement, then shared the designation of this year’s offering, The King Center in Atlanta, Georgia. The King Center is comprised of the King Library and the most extensive archives of primary sources on both King and the Civil Rights movement as a whole.
Following the offerings, members of different activist groups on campus including AHANA Leadership Council, Black Student Forum, and Eradicate Boston College Racism shared the Dr. King Memorial Petitions. The petitions quoted King’s timelessly pertinent words from his Letter to a Birmingham Jail: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an escapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”
Keynote speaker Brittany Packnett is an activist, educator, and the executive director of Teach for American St. Louis. Her profound ability to embed raw emotion into her passionate spoken word performance deeply moved every heart in the audience.
“Our human desire for safety would sometimes overwhelm our divine thirst for truth,” Packnett stated.
“There will always be an excuse against equity” she admitted, but challenged everyone in the audience to reject complacency and respond to King’s call for awareness and purposeful, informed action that still echoes from his Letter From a Birmingham Jail and his “I Have a Dream Speech.”
She challenged the audience to acknowledge the painful truth that “people are so busy looking at our connected hands, they are not looking at our disconnected lives.”
“Its never the [spirit of the people on] MLK Monday that causes me concern, its Tuesday,” she stated.
The Gathering ended with everyone in the crowd standing up, joining hands, and singing “We Shall Overcome,” a palpable reminder that we must continue dreaming and that, as stated in the petitions, “we may be disturbers of the status quo when that is God’s call to us.”