On Thursday, Jan. 18, the Rio Salado community came together to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This year Rio Salado hosted students to share their lived experiences. The event was a richly rewarding reversal of the typical school experience: this time, it was the students who were doing the teaching.
The event was emceed by Rio Student Service Specialist & DEIB service member (and Rio student) Daryll Dorceus, who opened the event by playing a stirring rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” sung by Bebe Winans. This song (which has strong historical roots in the Civil Rights Movement) got things off to a reverent and emotional start.
President Kate Smith took a moment to say a few words about Dr. King. “He set an example of using logic and love to champion truth and justice,” Smith said. She also made a point of giving a warm shout-out to Dr. Wanda Tucker, a retired Rio faculty member who helped spearhead the past MLK Celebrations.
Most of the event centered around two student guest speakers: Student Senator Beka Namachanja and Marielena Aguirre. Both students have appeared as moderators and panel participants in past DEIB events.
Aguirre and Namachanja talked about how Dr. King inspired them and influenced their lives. Reflecting on the perennial nature of Dr. King’s writing and speeches, Namachanja said “they endure to this day and they call for us to engage with each with empathy, compassion, and a commitment to our shared humanity.”
Aguirre spoke about her experiences in recovery and studying substance abuse counseling and how she’s dedicated to combating the social prominence of alcohol in our society. Quoting from one of Dr. King’s speech, Aguirre recited his words with firm conviction: “all labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
Twenty minutes into the event, Aguirre and Namachanja held a Q&A with the audience. When asked about her thoughts on Rio Salado’s DEIB efforts, the Student Senator praised the college’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, and belonging. She also emphasized the importance of patience in doing this kind of work.
“Sometimes there's a rush to do more rather than sit in what is already in progress and allow that to bear fruit,” Namachanja said. "I think from its beginning Rio has been a connector of people, which in ways embodies what Dr. King wanted: bringing education to different corners of our community that don't have access and making it so where there is access it’'s fine-tuned to the point where life doesn't have to get in the way of progressing to the next level.”
The livestream portion of the event ended with a video recording of several Rio faculty and staff members reciting Dr. King’s legendary “I Have A Dream” speech. Following the conclusion of that recording, Dorceus led Rio Salado staff and faculty to march in honor of Dr. King’s memory.
Learn More About MLK
Interested in finding out more about Dr. King’s life and work? Our Rio Salado library staff have put together an informative guide about MLK Day. This includes videos of some of his most famous speeches, the HBO documentary King in the Wilderness, a timeline of the man's life, a biography, and more!
Article by Austin Brietta