Alexandra O’Neal, Correspondent
On Tuesday, Jacksonville State University hosted the annual Day of Unity event in the TMB Auditorium. The event is a celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and legacy and also an opportunity for student organizations to express gratitude toward and solidarity with each other.
Different clubs and organizations that focus on celebrating diversity set up tables all around the TMB auditorium. Several of the tables featured information about foreign countries represented in the International House, such as Korea and Vietnam. At each table was a student dressed in the traditional attire of each country.
Additionally, there were tables of organizations that actively promote diversity on JSU’s campus, such as a table devoted to LGBTQ issues and the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.
The event was a chance for students to pause and appreciate the diverse organizations at JSU while learning more about the diversity present in America. Despite previous years, the event did not feature live music, food, or inspirational speeches.
This event also gave students the opportunity to reflect on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and legacy.
King, an influential civil rights activist and proponent of racial equality in American history, has an especially relevant impact to the students and faculty at JSU. Many of King’s protests were held in the areas surrounding Jacksonville, such as Atlanta, Birmingham and Montgomery.
In fact, one of the largest protests that Dr. King led was in Birmingham in 1963. The peaceful protest was a response to the city’s segregation efforts, and was composed of silent demonstrations, boycotts, kneel-ins at churches, and sit-ins at libraries.
Within days, hundreds were arrested, including Dr. King. It was at this time that King wrote his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” in which he explained the lack of civil rights in Birmingham and the need for action against injustice. In the letter, he defends his presence in Birmingham and writes that it would be immoral for him to “sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
In direct response to King’s protest efforts, “The Birmingham Truce Agreement” was signed, which entailed a number of desegregation acts, including the elimination of “whites only” and “blacks only” signs, for instance.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s efforts were not without risk. Over his lifetime, he was arrested over twenty times, physically attacked at least four times and was assassinated in 1968. He established himself as a national hero and his work continues to inspire and challenge Americans today.