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LSU Celebrates the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

LSU Community Reflects on Memory of Civil Rights Leader

Born on Jan. 15, 1929, Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy endures almost 43 years after his assassination in Memphis, Tenn. As the nation honors the memory of the famed civil rights leader, members of the LSU community celebrate his life and reflect on the way he has touched their lives with the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Celebration.


In 2010, the annual "Day of Service" included painting at two residential homes and Mable's Flower Shop in Old South Baton Rouge near the McKinley High School Alumni Center.

On Oct. 19, 1983, the United States Senate voted to establish a national holiday commemorating Martin Luther King Jr., which was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on Nov. 2, 1983. Three years later, in 1986, the nation officially celebrated the first Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. However, it was not until 2000 that all 50 states officially observed the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, when South Carolina became the last state to make the day an official state holiday.

Since 1994, when the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday and Service Act was signed into law, the third Monday of January has been identified as a national day of community service. Throughout January, LSU students will honor that legacy when they participate in the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Celebration to help fulfill King’s dream that all Americans live up to their potential and make this nation a better place.

 “Dr. King has made my life mission and goal to unify and embrace diversity," said Annisia Osborne, a member of LSU's Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Committee and a senior elementary education major from Shreveport. "Ever since I was little, I never saw a person for their color but what they had to bring as a person. I believe the importance of Dr. King’s legacy lives through me because every day I try to be an advocate for change.”

The Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Celebration will kick off at 8 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 17, when members of the university community begin the "Day of Service." More than 100 LSU students, faculty, staff and administrators will converge on the Old South Baton Rouge community to assist with the revitalization efforts of two houses along Thomas Delpit Drive across from Polk Elementary School. Participants will be afforded a hands-on opportunity to aid the local community and promote volunteerism, one of King's fundamental principles.


The 2010 "Day of Service" was the first of four featured service events of the LSU sesquicentennial celebration and represented one of the university's many ongoing community initiatives.

Following the "Day of Service," a candlelight vigil and march, sponsored by National Pan-Hellenic Council, will be held to observe Martin Luther King Day. The candlelight vigil will begin at 6 p.m. with a short program at the Memorial Tower, and the march will proceed to the LSU Student Union. The program will be held in the spirit of King and the Civil Rights marches of the 1960s to remember those who marched for freedom and the eradication of the ills of society. After the candlelight vigil and march, participants can enjoy a performance by Terrance Brown, a doctoral candidate in the LSU School of Music, in the Live Oak Lounge. Brown, accompanied by pianist Louis Wendy, will perform "I Have a Dream" by Lee Hoiby, who set a portion of King's famous speech to music in the 1980s.

On Tuesday, Jan. 25, the Martin Luther King Jr. Committee and the Black History Month Committee will host six-time Grammy nominee Nnenna Freelon for the keynote performance at the MLK Commemorative Celebration. Freelon, a renowned jazz singer, composer, producer and arranger, has performed at the Grammy Awards, the White House, the Apollo Theater, Carnegie Hall and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and has performed and toured with such artists as Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Ellis Marsalis, Herbie Hancock, Anita Baker, Diana Krall and Al Jarreau. The celebration is free and open to the public and will take place beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the Manship Theatre.

The MLK Performing Arts Night, one of the most anticipated events of the MLK Celebration, will be held on Thursday, Jan. 27, beginning at 6 p.m., in the School of Music Recital Hall. King's impending legacy has long been associated with his means of creative expression as an orator, a Reverend and a civil rights activist. The MLK Performing Arts Night, which is free and open to the public, will allow LSU students to celebrate the life and legacy of King through poetry, dance and musical expression.

For more information on the life and legacy of King, the LSU Libraries has a wonderful resource guide online, which provides a timeline of his life and works, and resources about his impact and legacy on the nation. That information can be accessed at www.lib.lsu.edu/hum/mlk.

The 2011 Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Celebration is coordinated by the LSU Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Committee and the Black History Month Committee. The committee advisors include Chaunda Allen, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs; Cerise Edmonds, coordinator for Cross-Cultural Affairs in the Office of Multicultural Affairs; and Niya Blair, coordinator for African-American Student Affairs in the Office of Multicultural Affairs. For more information contact the LSU Office of Multicultural Affairs at 225-578-4339.

As part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Celebration, members of the LSU community have reflected on the legacy of King, what that legacy means to them and why it is important to continue to celebrate that legacy:

Cerise Marie Edmonds
Coordinator, Cross-Cultural Affairs, LSU Office of Multicultural Affairs

What impact have Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy had on you?
"Dr. King and other civil rights leaders moved forward in a peaceful and collective manner in the face of the some of the worst adversity in U.S. history. I am reminded every day of how fortunate I am and my role in keeping his legacy alive with the students we work with on a daily basis. Although his legacy is formally celebrated a few days out of the year, the work I do with the students I work with are daily reminders of the giant shoulders we stand on."

What does Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy mean to you?
"Dr. King’s legacy means to me hope for a better future. His legacy is a reminder of the struggles and accomplishments all the leaders of the civil rights movement experienced to ensure our rights are not disregarded because of the color of our skin, but celebrated and exercised."

Why is it important to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy with the annual Day of Service and Black History Month?
"One of Dr. King’s fundamental principles is volunteerism; giving back to others genuinely. The Day of Service is celebrated on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day to symbolize communities coming together to serve the greater good. It is important to show the community as a unified group working to help those who are unable to help themselves as well as the support the LSU community has for them. When it comes to Black History Month, it is important to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy along with others equally famous in name and especially those who are not as famous, but who played crucial roles during the civil rights movement and beyond."

Why is it important for LSU to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.?
"It is important for LSU to honor the legacy of Dr. King because he symbolizes freedom and hope for all people of color, not just African-Americans, and served as a bridge for all people, regardless of skin color, to come together and understand that we are all the same and we all want to be treated with respect and love. As an institution of higher learning, it is imperative for us to teach everyone what it is to respect each other as we prepare them for a world where not everyone does that so that our students can be the change we long to see in the world."

Dominique Dangerfield
Senior, Ponchatoula, Chemical Engineering Major
Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service Team Leader

What impact have Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy had on you?
"Dr. King and his legacy have reshaped my perspective of life and human society. He and his and struggles as a civil rights activist have enlightened me in a way that I realized that persistence of a dream reshapes reality. Through his struggles and motivation, I learned that we dwell in a society that thrives upon the evolution of ideas; and Dr. King was a great idealist. I see that we as a people need only to dream it to achieve it. We need but plant the seed of change and water it with perspective for it to grow."

What does Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy mean to you?
"To me, Dr. King’s legacy means the evolution of human perspective. It was a transition from a closed minded way of life to a more open and accepting one. It means a platform for change. It is an inspiration that projects the image that everyone is indirectly interconnected: that in order for us to thrive as a people we need one another. Dr. King’s legacy means that violence cannot implement change and that we should invest more in the trusting of the conscience and heart. As Dr. King said, 'Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that, and hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.'"

Why is it important to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy with the annual Day of Service and Black History Month?
"It is important to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy with the annual Day of Service and Black History Month because it is important that we come together as people to remember and celebrate a great idea as well as a great idealist. It is also important that we remember where we came from and the transition that it took to get here. It is a reflection of evolution. It is a pause and reflection of those who dedicated their lives to the progression of African-Americans. It is a tribute that symbolizes that they are not forgotten, that they are still appreciated and that the fight against ignorance and intolerance will continue."

Why is it important for LSU to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.?
"It is important for LSU to honor the legacy of Dr. King because of his significant contributions to the integrated way we presently live. We need to honor this legacy because to honor the legacy is to honor the idea. To honor the idea is to be open to change, and being open to change keeps the dream alive and thriving. It is necessary for us to look back into the past, not so we can dwell in and on it, but rather so that we do not repeat the same mistakes and continue taking steps forward toward total equality."

Paige Chenier
Senior, Lafayette, Human Resource Education Major
Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Celebration Student Coordinator

What impact have Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy had on you?
"Martin Luther King and his legacy have had a huge impact on me. As an African-American, there are many opportunities I now have that I would not have had it not been for Martin Luther King and his efforts. He was one of the leaders of the civil rights movement, a movement that brought light to the discrimination issue in America, as well as made efforts to achieve equality for all. Had it not been for Martin Luther King, discrimination would probably still be practiced in this country and resources and opportunities would probably still be limited to minorities. Had it not been for him and the other leaders of the civil rights movement, I would not have been granted the education and opportunities that I have now. I am eternally grateful for everything he has done."

What does Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy mean to you?
Many words come to mind when I think of Martin Luther King's legacy. I immediately think of freedom, equality, justice and hope, just to name a few. His legacy is a real life testament that dreams do come true. He has proven that with hard work, dedication and sacrifice, anything is possible. His legacy is also a constant reminder of everything he has done. When I go to school everyday and realize I am an African-American on a predominantly white university, I am grateful. When I go to the store and see different ethnicities shopping, I am grateful."

Why is it important to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy with the annual Day of Service and Black History Month?
"It's important to celebrate Martin Luther King's legacy with the annual Day of Service and Black History Month so people don't forget what he did for us. People easily forget the martyrs who died to give them opportunities they currently have. Celebrating his legacy ensures that we don't."

Why is it important for LSU to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.?
"It's important for LSU to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King because it shows their support for the minority community who attends the university. It shows that we are acknowledged and appreciated."

Melissa Brown
Senior, New Orleans, Sports Administration Major

What impact have Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy had on you?
"If it wasn't for Dr. King, I would not have even half of the opportunities that I have had. I've attended extremely diverse schools all of my life and I have had the opportunity to be around different cultures and broaden my horizons about people in general. If it wasn't for Dr. King and other activists like him, we would still be in a largely closed minded society in which people stick to their own."

What does Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy mean to you?
"Power. The civil rights movement gave African-Americans a voice and, like the old saying goes, 'A squeaky wheel gets the grease.' Without the right to vote, minorities have no power or say so in what goes on in this country. We have the power to vote, and we have the power of education. It is up to us to use these tools that our predecessors for so hard for us to have."

Why is it important to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy with the annual Day of Service and Black History Month?
"Dr. King dedicated his life to serving the African-American community as a whole and fighting poverty. Being a leader is not just about seeking to improve yourself but also helping those around you. MLK Day of Service is just one of the ways we can honor Dr. King's legacy of service by taking one day off to lend a hand to someone in need. I feel like Black History Month is a celebration, not just of Dr. King's legacy, but of all thing black. It is a time in which we reflect on where we come from and look forward to where we can go."

Why is it important for LSU to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.?
"Sometimes we, as minority college students, get so caught up in grades, classes and social activities that we forget that we are here not only to benefit ourselves but also to better our community. LSU students have been given an opportunity that many of our parents never even dreamed of. Personally, my own parents did not have the opportunity to receive college degrees, but they always told me to remember that they and their parents, and generations before that fought hard for my siblings and I to get ours."

Taylor James-Lightner
Sophomore, Little Rock, Ark., Chemical Engineering Major

What impact have Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy had on you?
"His work had a major impact on me being a more equal citizen than my grandparents and great-grandparents. This time 50 years ago, things I do on a daily basis wouldn't have been so kosher with my classmates and neighbors."

What does Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy mean to you?
"His legacy is a sign of greater peace, cooperation, love and less prejudice and hatred."

Why is it important to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.'s Legacy with the annual Day of Service and Black History Month?
"Day of Service is just a way to pay it forward. He put in a lot of hard work for me and I'm not too good to do the same for someone else. I really think we should find more time in the year to celebrate him because the impact he has had on this country far exceeds the black community."

Why is it important for LSU to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.?
"It's important that he be honored by people in general because he's earned it."

Chelsea Flugence
Junior, Broussard, English Major

What impact have Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy had on you?
"Martin Luther King and his legacy have had a great impact on my life. To know what he fought for inspires me to work hard in all aspects of my life so that I can have the better life that many people during his time were striving for."

What does Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy mean to you?
"Martin Luther King's legacy means that I can dream big and aspire to do great things and through hard work and determination I can achieve success!"

Why is it important to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy with the annual Day of Service and Black History Month?
"It is important to celebrate Martin Luther King's legacy with the annual Day of Service and Black History Month because it is important to keep his legacy alive and give back to the community in honor of him, and to also use this time to commemorate the great man that he was and all of his accomplishments."

Why is it important for LSU to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.?
"It is important for LSU to honor Martin Luther King's legacy because without the dream that he had and the actions that he took we would not be able to have such a diverse population of students that attend this university and have an equal opportunity to achieve greatness!"