Hundreds from Campus Community Turn Out to Honor
Martin Luther King Jr. on Eve of Historic Presidential Inauguration
Ioana Patringenaru | January 20, 2009
Chancellor Marye Anne Fox, Vice Chancellor Penny Rue and Chief Diversity Officer Sandra Daley headed up UC San Diego's contingent during the 29th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in San Diego.
Members of the UC San Diego community marching in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade Saturday suddenly saw a large banner with the portraits of Malcolm X, Dr. King and President Barack Obama in the parade’s staging area. Hanging off the side of a double-decker bus, the banner proclaimed “Yes We Did.” “We’ve got to get a picture with that bus,” a student said. Soon, dozens of undergraduates huddled by the side of the vehicle, posing for a group portrait.
The banner summarized what many said they had on their mind on Saturday, during the 29th annual parade in San Diego’s East Village dedicated to honoring King’s legacy. More than 500 members of the UCSD community turned out for the event.
Among those who marched, some said Obama’s inauguration showed that Dr. King’s dream had come true. Others said they were worried the election of the nation’s first black president would overshadow Dr. King’s legacy. Many said they were excited.
“It is a long-standing tradition for our students, staff, faculty and alumni to march together in the annual Martin Luther King Jr. parade,” said Chancellor Marye Anne Fox. “This year, our participation is especially meaningful, as our first African-American president will be sworn in this week. This is exciting time for our country and we’re proud to take part in this celebration of Dr. King’s life and legacy.”
“We’re on the eve of realizing Dr. King’s dream,” said Glynda Davis, director of Campus Diversity Initiatives. “It’s on everybody’s mind.”
The excitement was palpable even before the parade, during a breakfast Friday in memory of Jackie Robinson and Dr. King, said Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Penny Rue. She mentioned a line from the reverend’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Students marching for UC San Diego posed in front of a mural created by the World Beat Center, depicting Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and President Barack Obama.
“We’ve made more progress on the way to Dr. King’s dream than many of us could imagine,” Rue said.
Edwina Welch, director of UCSD’s Cross-Cultural Center, who was born in 1963, said she thought she’d never live to see this day. But Welch cautioned that Obama’s election and inauguration doesn’t mean that the civil rights movement has reached its goals. There is still more to be done, she said.
The turnout for Saturday’s parade was inspiring, said Steve Adler, provost of Warren College. “I sense such optimism in the air and believe that in no small part this results from the confluence of celebrating Dr. King’s birthday just three days before the historic inauguration of President-elect Obama,” he said. “Our students are learning a vital lesson about the ways in which passionate civic engagement can create remarkable change.”
Remebering Dr. King’s legacy is even more important now that the nation is about to inaugurate its first black president, said Allyssa Villanueva, a second year student at Revelle College. Obama’s election was one of the reasons Lenette Bradley, also a second year at Revelle, said she decided to turn out for Saturday’s parade. “We wouldn’t have Obama if not for Martin Luther King’s struggle,” said the psychology major. “I just felt it’s really important to honor him today.”
During the parade, Revelle students handed out fabric carnations, a flower that Dr. King used to send to his wife every week, they explained. At Sixth College, staff members have encouraged students to follow this year’s elections closely, said Jenelle Dean, coordinator of Student Affairs. “It’s really exciting,” she said. “I think we have a lot of things to look forward to.”
More than 500 members of the UCSD community turned out for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade.
After the parade, Jamila Aswad, chair of UCSD’s Black Student Union, said that Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Obama’s inauguration shouldn’t be conflated. “This day is always special,” she said of the celebration of Dr. King’s birthday. “What he stood for finally got through.”
She added she was excited about Tuesday’s presidential inauguration. Then, she went to have her picture taken under the double-decker bus with Dr. King and President Obama’s portraits looming high above her.