The Marshall White Community Center’s gymnasium was packed with family and friends on Jan. 15, gathering to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life. As guest speakers spoke about continuing King’s legacy, community members made signs and Weber State students volunteered to serve the Ogden community breakfast, preparing for the scheduled march.
The first speaker on stage was Betty Sawyer, president of the Ogden branch of the NAACP and Weber’s own Community Engagement Coordinator in Access and Diversity. She explained the importance of Dr. King’s accomplishments during the civil rights movement and how she teaches Weber State students about the topic.
Sawyer encouraged students to be activists on a daily basis, reminding the audience half of the activists during the civil rights era were young adults. According to Sawyer, they were the ones willing to stand up for what they believed in. It is important to her that she encourages young adults to become activists.
During the civil rights era, many adults were afraid to stand up for their rights because they could lose their jobs or even lose their lives.
“A lot of times we think we have to have a title or be in a certain position to make a difference,” Sawyer said. “Wherever you are, there’s something that you can do that can help other people, so don’t dismiss small beginnings and what you can do.”
After Sawyer’s speech, the first vice president of the NAACP, Willa Kemp, led the people of Ogden in prayer. Then, voices flooded throughout the gymnasium as the crowd sang, “Lift Every Voice,” also known as “The Black American National Anthem,” as Robert Stevenson volunteered to play the piano.
While the audience ate breakfast, a documentary played to honor Dr. King’s legacy.
During that time, people could go to the front of the stage to see the framed photos of historic African-Americans figures throughout the years. Some of the people framed included former President Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Nat King Cole and Harriet Tubman. Below each picture was a written description of how the figure made a positive impact in African-American history.
The theme for the event was “Together we will win with love for humanity.”
Calling King “a God pleaser” and “A Father of America,” Dr. Ron Brown said, “The true north of a God pleaser is not success, but obedience,” meaning that he did not care about objects of value, but rather, his faith.
Dr. Brown went on to describe the meaning of King’s name. He was born Michael King but changed it to Martin Luther, ‘Martin’ meaning “warlock,” and ‘Luther’ meaning “famous fighter.”
When Brown finished his speech, WSU’s Diversity and Inclusive Programs Coordinator Andrea Hernandez gave the crowd of people instructions on what to do during the march. Then, people took the protest sign of their choice and headed out to march to the Ogden Amphitheater. The police escorted the crowd while Hernandez led the march with a megaphone, belting out various chants. Some of the chants included, “MLK lives on!” “Power to the people!” and “The people, united, will never be divided!”
Once the crowd reached the Ogden Amphitheater, local Black Lives Matter leader, Lex Scott, spoke about how all African-American communities need to unite together in order to make a difference. Because of police brutality and segregated schools, Scott urged black communities to stand together, regardless of their differences.
“Please acknowledge us, whether you’re young or old, dark skinned or light skinned, Muslim or Christian, gay or straight, educated or uneducated, rich or poor,” Scott said. “Please, we need to unite black people to honor Dr. Martin Luther King.”