By Libby Allen
BU News Service
Boston University students, teachers, and alumni gathered Monday afternoon at a snow-covered Marsh Plaza for a rally celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dozens braved the elements to hear words from Abigail Gilman, a BU professor of modern languages; Marvin Venay, a BU alum and the Massachusetts Deputy Director of Government Affairs; and Ashley Guillaume, a soon-to-be graduate of BU’s College of Arts and Sciences.
This chilly gathering place is far from Selma, Ala. or Atlanta, Georgia, the starting point of the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965 and King’s hometown, respectively, but it is the place where Martin Luther King became Dr. Martin Luther King, earning his Ph.D. in systematic theology from Boston University in 1955.
This year’s celebration follows a year of much-covered national and global violence and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, which remained in national headlines with the murders of nine black church-goers in Charleston, S.C., last year and the deaths of Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and others in recent years.
“I think it’s important to reflect on what Martin Luther King taught, especially with respect to what’s been going on in the news,” said Korede Yoloye, a BU freshman studying computer science. “It’s really easy to get angry sometimes, you know, to just not want to deal with it all, but Martin Luther King also preached peace. And you’ve got to have feelings for your fellow man. Those same teachings from back then apply today.”
A ceremony celebrating King’s life and legacy, which took place at BU’s George Sherman Union, followed the rally. Among the roster of speakers were students and alumni of BU, as well as keynote speaker Juan Felipe Herrera, Poet Laureate of the United States.
Herrera, the first Mexican-American Poet Laureate, spoke of being the child of migrant farmers in California in the 1950’s and of his time at the University of California in Los Angeles, where he first heard Martin Luther King speak. Gathering the audience in participation, Herrera spoke as the auditorium echoed his words, “We don’t want beautiful walls. We don’t want beautiful silence. We want beautiful voices.”