Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration features Freedom Riders

An auditorium full of community leaders, college trustees, students and employees watched a special screening of the storied Freedom Riders of the Civil Rights Movement at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Friday, Jan. 14.

In addition to the screening, two students from the University of Washington Tacoma, Erika Evans and Sophia Goode, spoke about Martin Luther King, Jr. and his plight, and engaged the audience in discussion. You can read Evans' full speech at the end of this blog post.

As part of the celebration, the college also organized a community March to the Tacoma Dome on Monday, Jan. 17 to attend the city's Martin Luther King, Jr. event. Read more from The News Tribune.
Employee Treonna Simmons sings at the college's MLK event.

University of Washington Tacoma student Erika Evans speaks about MLK and the Civil Rights Movement. You can read a copy of her speech below.

President Lyle Quasim addresses the audience.
Speech written and given by Erika Evans, University of Washington Tacoma student, at Bates Technical College’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration on Friday, Jan. 14, 2011.

Good morning,

Thank you for being here today.

I’m Erika and I want to begin by explaining that I believe the Civil Rights and Labor Movement began by the first slave being brought to the United States, and still is in process today.

This holiday we are celebrating and addressing the life of a significant figure.

We are here to celebrate and learn of a man, and of a great particular time in history.

Dr. Martin Luther King was father, husband, and a pastor, he used Gandhi in providing the method, and Jesus as providing the spirit in the Movement.

The goals and ideas of King can be placed into two phases.

Phase one was from 1955 to 1965 and involved gaining the fundamental rights for African Americans in equality and voting.

Protests and Marches in Montgomery, Albany, Birmingham, Washington, and Selma all set up situations where violence would occur. Dr. King used nonviolence as the means to win the heart of his oppressors.

In Montgomery, after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man, she was arrested.

King and his congregation boycotted from riding the bus system, instead they walked or rode with organized carpool systems they set up. They caused the busses to lose $2,500 dollars per day. After a full year of protest, they desegregated the busses. This boycott proved the power of organized nonviolent action, which became a successful agent in achieving economic social change.

These goals were obtained in phase one through using Gandhi’s method of nonviolence.

Nonviolence was used to befriend the hearts of enemies. King realized African Americans were only 10% of the population and needed to make alliances to produce change. Phase two of the Civil Rights and Labor Movement was from 1965-1968 and called for economic justice, ending the war, and ending poverty. In phase two King took on his final campaigns in Chicago, Mississippi, Detroit, Memphis, and Vietnam.

King saw America’s capitalist society as a reoccurring system; the few top white men get richer while the mass in poverty get poorer. Dr. King exercised his political rights with nonviolence, pushing for economic equality in education, housing, and healthcare.

King felt the war in Vietnam represented no way in solving social problems. King spoke in Chicago addressing the war. King condemned the government for spending $35 billion a year on the war, while it couldn’t spend $2 billion to feed its 35 million poor. King’s Poor People’s campaign was a multiracial coalition, and represented the 40 million poor people in America. The uneven distribution of wealth in America creates its capitalistic economy. The PPC wanted to confront poverty through staging a protest of their suffering in front of Washington D.C. Dr. King claimed to push the PPC until congress passed an Economic Bill of Rights. Overall King’s campaigns represented a national movement against poverty. Dr. King mobilized the whole African American community in fighting for human rights.

*In our current times we live in the richest country in the world, there should be no lack for economic needs. King knew the only way to change our system is to transform the United States. A moral revolution is needed to change the priorities and values in America’s government. I recently went and heard our former US attorney general Ramsey Clark speak at a presentation. Clark identified that 57% of our national budget is spent on arms for military and war. The United States spends more money than any other country on military.

*Congress needs to change its priorities; it needs to shift money to housing, healthcare, and education.

*In our country it seems that the petty thieves are exploited and incarcerated, while the bigger thieves are running loose in our government.

It is a terrible time to be in poverty right now.

In our state, our governor is pushing to end medical programs for the most vulnerable people in our county. Programs like Basic Health for people of low income and public assistance for thousands of families at the end of this month will be cut.

Our Governor and Government needs to change its priorities.

Speech written and given by Erika Evans, University of Washington Tacoma student, at Bates Technical College’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration on Friday, Jan. 14, 2011.