Emerson honored the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. earlier this week with its annual Martin Luther King Jr. luncheon. Hosted by Emerson’s Black Organization with Natural Interests (EBONI), the theme of this year’s luncheon was “The Struggle is Worth it.” More than 150 students, faculty, and staff packed the Bill Bordy Theater for a buffet lunch and speaking program.
Assistant Professor of Performing Arts Christina Marín and President Lee Pelton both spoke at the event, relaying personal stories and paying homage to King.
Marín revealed a “moment of struggle” in her own life when she was refused service years ago at a restaurant due to her ethnic heritage. She said conversations about race “are never going to be easy, but they are ours, and they are important.” And Emerson, she said, “is one place where these conversations are happening out in the open.”
Pelton said that Marín’s address showed the “power of stories,” and emphasized the power of words during his own address. “I am always aware that King was struck down in mid-sentence—while he stood talking on the balcony of his second-floor room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis,” said Pelton. “His assassin knew what King knew all his life: that in words are found the redemptive power to change, to transform, to transfigure, to persuade, to spur to action, to provide solace, to smooth troubled waters and, yes, to provide hope of a better day.”
He called on Emersonians to use their own voices to continue the work of King. “Let us remind ourselves during our celebration of his brilliant, but too, too short life that we must continue to grow, to challenge our own view of the world, and to speak out as King did,” he said. “Let us add our voices to his call for a committed life. Words were his redemption and they are ours, as well.”
The luncheon was the unofficial kickoff to Emerson’s celebration of African American Heritage Month, which begins in February. This year, Emerson will honor past and present African Americans in the arts and communication industries, such as Alvin Ailey, Ida B. Wells, and Barry Gordy. More information on upcoming events will be available soon.