“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that,” Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said.
Wednesday, April 4 marked the 50th year since the assassination of King, a prominent leader of the civil rights movement in America during the 1950s and 1960s.
50 years after his death, this country has celebrated and honored the legacy of a black man who spread messages of justice, peace and love to a country in a state of intolerance, bigotry and hate. Campus Ministry, Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and Office of Multicultural A airs partnered together and held the Eternal Light commemoration to revere King and his work.
Michelle Kim, who works in the Office of Multicultural Affairs, realized how it is important to have MLK Day and celebrate his life, but that there is also significance in his death and the way he died.
“He was killed doing passion work and important work, and so what do we want to do in re ecting on that?” Kim said.
She offered the closing statement to the event and spoke about choosing the name Eternal Light to truly symbolize how so many people have carried his messages and his ideas into the present day.
“Really, for me, MLK the individual is not the eternal light,” Kim said. “What he stood for—love, hope, the dedication to fight for nonviolent action and creating a just world— that hope is eternal and we can make it eternal.”
Six students performed a reading of King’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”—which he gave before his assassination the following evening—towards the end of the commemoration.
Among them were Mashayla Combs, Amina Ibrahim, Pa Ousman Jobe, Shika Kalevor, Matinn Miller, and Anab Nur. Each of them chose and held books written by people of color that talked about black identity and history, which they used to hide their notecards, but also to add creativity and symbolism to their reading.
“Matinn came up with this idea and it was pretty brilliant,” Kalevor said. “I chose the book Roots by Alex Haley because it signified where the narrative began of African descendants in the United States. We each picked a book that was symbolically important to the Civil Rights Movement.”
Kalevor spoke to what the message of eternal light means to them as well and what it means to make sure that flame never burns out in themselves and in their communities.
“To me, it means that our light can never be extinguished,” Kalevor said. “No matter how much adversity we face as black people in America, that light and that power we hold will never burn out. We’ve made it this far, so it means to keep pushing and fighting for our rights.”
Kalevor and Nur also touched upon how they take part in smaller scale and larger scale ways to emanate the eternal light they, and anyone else, can possess.
“The ways I’ve tried to honor ‘eternal light’ is by staying involved! Change involves action and getting educated,” Kalevor said. “I try my best to attend social justice events, advocate for my peers, and stay active in the campus and Seattle community. I’m also involved with the Unnamed Project, which aims to document the voices of historically marginalized groups on campus to ensure that their voices are heard, as well as making sure that their concerns are being addressed.”
Nur noted the importance of focusing on vulnerable communities when it comes to working towards change, and touched on how much she enjoys working with youth of color.
“I’m really passionate about equity for youth of color, and whenever I work with youth of color in the community, I try and honor what would be called that ‘eternal light.’ I believe that the idea that communities are powerful enough to incite change is knowledge that all people should have access to, especially our youth,” Nur said.
After the candlelight vigil, attendees were given a few moments to reflect on the readings, and invited to ponder questions such as “What does it look like for you to carry this light and continue to live the spirit of eternal light?” and “How might you get into good trouble today?”
At the end of the memorial, the chapel bells tolled 50 times at approximately 6:01p.m., the same time King was assassinated, to conclude the celebration of his eternal light.