Protests over the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and recent events at the U.S. Capitol reflect the country’s current state of unrest.
With these events as a backdrop, the 30th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Celebration—a signature FIU event that honors King’s lifelong dedication to equality, social justice, and peace—was of profound significance.
Centered on the theme United for Equity: The Power of Collective Action, the 2021 celebration featured Bernice A. King, minister, attorney and daughter of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as the keynote speaker.
King, who is a returning speaker of the annual event, is among leaders and activists such as Charles Bonner, Valarie Kaur and, most recently, Yusef Salaam, who have shared their wisdom with the FIU community over the past 30 years, and offered a blueprint to build a better tomorrow for future generations.
The event, held virtually on Jan. 14, connected more than 1,000 guests.
“While this year’s virtual setting is a bit different than what we are used to, it has granted us the opportunity to connect with even more members of our community, locally and globally, especially during a time when it is crucial for our nation to unite for equity, social justice and peace,” said Elizabeth Bejar, vice president for Academic and Student Affairs.
In true FIU fashion, the two-hour program was filled with lively entertainment by the FIU Gospel Choir, a spoken word performance by Butterfly Vaughns, and the presentation of the 2021 MLK Scholarship and Peace award winners.
The highlight of the morning was the intimate conversation with Bernice A. King, moderated by Saif Y. Ishoof, vice president for the Office of Engagement.
King made it very clear that the events that took place in the capital on Jan. 6 were not protests but acts of violence with the intent to cause harm and damage.
“We can’t sit back and deny the fact that there are people in this country who’ve been raised in hate,” said King. “Violence is not the answer. It is not a solution.”
She emphasized the need to align with each other and work on issues that threaten "our humanity, our togetherness, our connectedness and our civilization."
King recalled the importance of mobilization, organization and strategy during the 1960s, along with her father’s non-violent philosophy and methodology that fueled the civil rights movement.
“We’ve got to do that again, today,” said King. “Do we want to be a nation of violence or do we want to be a nation of peace?”
Other upcoming FIU MLK commemorative celebration events include:
- MLK Day of Service: On Saturday, Jan. 16 at 9:30 a.m. students will participate in virtual initiatives as well as on-campus projects at FIU’s main campus, 11200 SW 8th St. in Miami. Student activities will include beautification projects at FIU’s nature preserve, collecting food donations and helping with fundraising efforts for Lotus House, and participating in virtual projects supporting the Junior Achievement of Miami and Humane Society of Greater Miami.
- MLK @ The Frost Art Museum FIU Exhibit: From Jan. 21 to April 16 the Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum will feature an exhibition titled Transfiguration: A Black Speculative Vision of Freedom. Since the debut of Marvel’s Black Panther (2018), the focus on Afrofuturism in the United States has skyrocketed. Afrofuturism embraces utopic spaces where equality is valued and realized. Curated by Julian C. Chambliss, Transfiguration spotlights how visual narrative at the heart of Afrofuturist practice is part of a longer Black speculative tradition. This exhibition takes up the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s observation that Black visions of freedom strive for a better future, as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Exhibition Series, which addresses issues of race, diversity, social justice, civil rights, and humanity to serve as a catalyst for dialogue and to enrich the community with new perspectives.
Bernice A. King, 2021 Dotson Family MLK Keynote Speaker