For many of those who are aware of the famous message of Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have A Dream” speech, one would know that King’s dream was for a call to action for economic and civil rights to end racism for all. For Cortney Cross, director of the VU Multicultural Affairs Department, this is a dream for them as well.
“It’s important to my department, as the director of Multicultural Affairs, because I have a lot of students who look like me who don’t necessarily have that representation in their classroom in terms of having authority figures or professors who don’t look like them,” Cross explained.
On Jan. 28 the Multicultural Affairs Department hosted a Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration to honor the civil rights activist. The event featured a couple of keynote speakers including Dr. Mary Howard Hamilton and Dr. Kandace Hinton.
“History has its eyes on you… If you want to go on living the dream you have to take command of your free mind and not let others plant things in that free mind,” Dr. Hamilton said as she stood in front of the audience, encouraging them to take the action of continuing King’s dream.
Dr. Hinton also shared this idea. “The King holiday is a huge stone to be memorialized to tell our children over and over again that there was a man who lived, led, and loved…Martin Luther King carried the stones of love, leadership, service, and success,” Dr. Hinton said.
“I think that gathering together and having something that can specifically speak to a target population of students can help with their self esteem and can help them feel like they belong on campus,” Cross mentioned. “This is one of those events that we put on to let these students know that we see you and we want to do something about it.”
When asked about the kind of message that Cross hoped this event portrayed to students on campus, Cross replied, “I don’t want this message to fall on deaf ears. The theme for this year’s celebration is ‘the time is now.’” I want people to be moved to action and I want people to do something. This is 2020 and I want the message of ‘the time is now be a leader, to have a voice, to vote, and to challenge and push back the evil and injustice that we see taking place in our own community and internationally.’”
Cross expressed that she thought students who came to the event gained some experience, growth, and learning outside of the classroom. “Students will be able to broaden and strengthen areas of their development that may be weak. Some may have come because their identity development needs to be sharpened or because their cross-cultural communication skills might need to be sharpened. I want everyone to walk away changed.”