North Texas Daily

MLK day celebration unifies community

MLK day celebration unifies community

January 17
20:10 2017

Sadia Saeed | Staff Writer

Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his last speech at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 3, 1968, hours before his death. The congregation hung on to King’s every word as he spoke about equality, boycotts and the ideal future. Pouring out his speech, King assured the crowd and all people of color that he has seen the future and it looks bright.

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now,” King said. “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!”

That day, King addressed both the present and future. His message still stands strong 49 years later amongst citizens as they pay tribute and reflect on Martin Luther King Jr. Day across the globe on Jan. 17, including Denton.

Denton celebrates MLK Day                          

Denton’s annual MLK Day and march brought the community together as they celebrated the life and legacy that Martin Luther King Jr. left behind. This year’s theme, “Our Past Will Shape Our Future,” included a variety of events, ranging from a MLK march, organized by UNT’s Eta Epsilon Chapter, to programs for the whole family at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center.

Citizens of Denton gather around the University Union waiting for the Martin Luther King Jr. day march to start. Jennyfer Rodriguez

Although this is an annual event for the Eta Epsilon Chapter, the organization’s president, Durel E. Dolford, said this year’s program was meant to be different than the past years.

“Since my freshman year here at UNT, the Alphas have held this event and it has been large,” Dolford said. “Last year, when I joined the fraternity, my line-brothers and I wanted it to be better than the previous years. I really wanted our guys to be more involved within the program and utilize the talents they possess, so we do have a few curve balls for everyone.”

The Eta Epsilon Chapter, which has been around since 1970, has deep roots in this event. Preparation for such large events starts early on.

“We started [in] November on the actual programming, but [ideas have been in works since] late September,” Dolford said. “A lot of work has been done by us and the staff over at the MLK Jr. Rec Center. We wanted to make this year’s event different and have a unique feel to it, and I feel like our plan will come into fruition.”

The Martin Luther King Jr. March extends from the University Union and proceeds to Fred Moore Park, ending at the MLK Jr. Recreation Center.

Through the years, those involved in the MLK celebration have tried listening to the community to see what more should be integrated into this unifying event.

“The ideas come from people in the community, [the] people who’ve lived in the community for years,” said Bobbi Givens, the center supervisor for the MLK Jr. Recreation Center.

The event brings in members throughout the community, including members of churches and various individual organizations. In addition, sororities and fraternities from UNT and Texas Woman’s University participate.

As Denton has grown, so has its community, resulting in the expansion of the event, said Givens. More people become involved year after year.

“The more we spread the word, the more people will come out,” Dolford said.

After 49 years, the issues that Martin Luther King Jr. fought for are still being fought today in modern day America, and Dolford said MLK Day allows for a time of reflection.

“It will most definitely feel more empowering to the community because we are marching with more pride,” Dolford said. “The recent activities with Black Lives Matter has enhanced black pride and I also feel like we will be more aware of our culture, our surroundings and of what it truly means to be black in America.”

Givens said that although his speeches were delivered almost half a century ago, King’s legacy is still important throughout the country.

Especially during this time, Givens said, it is important for people to stick together rather than pull apart.

“We want to make it something where Martin Luther King would be proud to know that we have people from all nationalities, all different cultures and all different backgrounds that are part of this celebration,” Givens said. “For the march, signs were made, songs were sung, [and] togetherness will make our community feel more comfortable and unified throughout that day and will probably carry most people for the rest of the year.”

As Martin Luther King Jr. stood upon that mountaintop during his memorable speech, he reflected on the future and created waves of change for all mankind. Now, as he rests in his grave, the inscribed words still ring out.

“Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last.”

Featured Image: The attendees of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day March start moving out of UNT campus. Celebrations in Denton started with a youth flag football tournament, followed by a rally and march from the University Union to the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center. Jennyfer Rodriguez 

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Kayleigh Bywater

Kayleigh Bywater

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