“Language of the Unheard”
“No justice! No peace! … No justice! No peace!”
On Jan. 19, these chants were heard around campus as students participated in the “United to … March and Rally,” held in commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The march was organized by the UC Irvine Cross-Cultural Center and was in association with UCI’s Black Student Union.
The group marched around Ring Road and made three key stops to address the crowd about particular moments related to the Civil Rights Movement.
“A lot of this is to symbolize what Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement was about,” said Director of the Cross Cultural Center, Kevin Huie. “[This is] to bring awareness to actions that were taking place back in his time.”
At the end of the march, the group gathered together to listen to UCI students express their thoughts and sentiments on Martin Luther King Jr. Fourth-year John Murrillo recited his spoken-word poem entitled “Entanglement,” while fellow senior Joy Gahansah delivered a soulful a capella rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the Black National Anthem. Fourth-year Abraham Medina finished the march gathering with his motivating poem called, “A Politics of Poetry: A Legal Stance.”
The celebration of Dr. King’s legacy kicked off earlier that week on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as students got involved in helping their community make food packages for the hungry at the Orange County Food Bank.
Co-chair of the Black Student Union, senior Ashley Hughes commented on the event:
“In honor of Dr. King’s birthday, every year we do a service project to remember Dr. King’s teachings and apply them to our organization (Black Student Union). We also try to make sure that people remember him, not in the mainstream sense, but also for all his other works that go unmentioned.”
Later that evening, the Cross-Cultural Center held their 28th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium with keynote speaker Reverend Irene Monroe who was introduced by Professor Joseph White, the namesake of the Cross-Cultural room.
Monroe is an LGBT activist and the former Coordinator of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry in Pacific School of Religion. She has been featured in The Oprah Magazine as well as “Paula Zahn Now” on CNN.
Held at the Student Center Crystal Cove Auditorium, the symposium began with Monroe’s animated narration of her experience prior to entering seminary and how she became a reverend. Monroe later explained the complex notions of the role of discrimination in religion and answers this idea by what she calls the “Debunking of Hierarchy in Oppression.”
“When you understand your own history, you understand struggle. And that’s the kind of work [that] King today is talking about, the justice that has to be done. That when we talk about justice, we have to begin with ourselves,” Monroe said.
Additionally, Monroe touched upon ideas that dealt with discrimination and what it means to be black, female and homosexual in today’s society. She kept the spirits high with her discussion in which she asked her diverse audience how white they were and to what extent.
During the question-and-answer period that followed, Monroe was asked whether she agrees if “prejudice in its most basic sense, [is] ignorance?”
“Prejudice is definitely ignorance but it is also power behind it too,” Monroe replied. “We got to do the work to change.”
She ended her lecture with the words of Dr. King.
“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly,”
First-year Dana Payne had an inspirational experience at the symposium, saying “I really enjoyed it, I came in thinking it was going to be dry but the speaker was very entertaining. She got me thinking about ethnicity and what it means to be in our own lives.”
The celebration did not end at the symposium; the following day an open mic and drum circle was held open to the public for people to share and celebrate the memory of Dr. King during this month of commemoration.