Social justice, anti-discrimination and unity filled the walls of the Gardner Center in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.
The Gardner Center lounge area filled quickly yesterday as Bryan Hotchkins, a post-doctoral research associate at the University of Utah, prepared to give his speech to pay tribute to King Jr.
Adam Ross, Multicultural Diversity Center coordinator and a DSU alumnus from Torrance, California, helped introduce Hotchkins along with Christina Duncan, Black Student Union adviser and sociology instructor. Ross said his event was part of a very special day for him because it helped continue to make King Jr.’s dream a reality.
Hotchkins began his speech by thanking those who made this event possible, including his ancestors, living and transitioned.
“It’s important that I pay homage to those who are unrecognized and unidentified in history but were nonetheless slain,” Hotchkins said. “We are sitting on the other side of a desegregated glory, not literally but figuratively.”
One of the main themes of Hotchkin’s speech was the idea of sacrifice.
“The humane sacrifice made by [King Jr.] was paying for freedom with his life,” he said. “Considering the cumulative effect of those that have come before us and made sacrifices, I would like to ask each of you: What are you most willing to sacrifice?”
Hotchkins said the drive to achieve equality is bigger than that of one individual, and spoke not only about events surrounding racism in our history, but also about the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown cases. He recited a poem he wrote about a young black man who was gunned down because a policeman thought he was reaching for a gun.
“Is there ever a wrong time to be in your own community?” Hotchkins asked. “In the past and current times, black lives have been prematurely snatched from Earth … The overlap is uncanny, the commonalities: black, male, shot, unarmed … although the former are associated with African-American heroes and the latter are just unfortunate youth to others.”
Rebecca Gonzales, a freshman music major from Boise, Idaho, said Hotchkin’s speech was very empowering and comforting.
“I’m not black or have the same struggles [African-Americans] do,” she said. “I do have the same struggles because I’m female. I’m discriminated against because my last name in Gonzales. [King Jr.] has made a difference in everybody’s lives.”
Gonzales said she hopes to see discrimination-ending events like this progress even further, especially when it comes to women’s issues.
“People are people,” Gonzales said.
Attendees and organizers of the event stepped outside the Gardner Center to dedicate the light post. President Biff Williams said events like these are a springboard to starting conversations about the boundaries that once divided our nation.
“DSU is truly evolving the realm of diversity,” he said. “However, there’s much more work we have to do.”
Patrons counted down as members of the BSU, Hotchkins, Williams, and other organizers of the event unveiled the plaque now on the light post.
“Getting this light post is a reminder of [King Jr.’s] dream,” Ross said. “As DSU moves forward, the light post will be a reminder for us all to judge people by their content and not by the color of their skin.”
Williams said it takes leadership, commitment and participation to completely achieve inclusion.
Aireona Bradford, BSU president and a sophomore general education major from Las Vegas, was proud of the event.
“I feel very blessed that DSU was actually willing to do something like this because it hasn’t yet been done, to my knowledge,” Bradford said. “For this to happen is really big. I’m really happy.”
Next month is Black History Month, and the BSU hopes to have events planned every day.
“Just because you can no longer see the vestiges of slavery, oppression, and systemic racism, (it) does not mean that they no longer exist,” Hotchkins said.