Martin Luther King, Jr. Plaque Unveiled On Campus, Spurring Activist To Speak
By Taylor Lang, Syracuse, N.Y. (CitrusTV) – Fifty years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Syracuse University unveiled a plaque where he stood in 1965 on campus.
Hundreds of people including faculty, staff, activists, and students came together in the Schaffer Art Building in honor of King’s memory.
The Schaffer building was a dorm with a dining hall and a large event area when King spoke. The building is still attached to what is now Sims Hall, which is the home of SU’s Department of African American Studies.
The event’s main goal was to honor the memory of King and remember his words that some things are eternal and worth dying for. Chancellor Kent Syverud focused on how his legacy reminds the university that progress is always difficult.
“It would be nice if we could honestly educate ourselves on what Dr. King said here about education and the civil rights movement and how much of it applies here today,” he said. “It will not be a comfortable education, but great education is rarely comfortable.”
The 50th anniversary of King’s death comes at a time when diversity and inclusion are a prominent source of tension in society. Barry Wells is the Assistant to the Chancellor. He believes the plaque comes at a perfect time to serve as a reminder to the community on a larger scale.
“If Dr. King was alive today, in my opinion,” he said, “ he would no doubt be applauding the high school students of Parkland as well as the Black Lives Movement.”
After the scheduled event was over, the event took a slight turn. An activist walked to the front of the room and took the spotlight. He began to speak about his role at SU as the President of the Religious Counsel during the time MLK died and how it affected his view.
As an artist, Activist Harry Freeman-Jones created a mural meant to capture the energy and movement of what the death of King meant to him and the world. It hung in Hendricks Chapel after it was renovated. It has now been deemed inappropriate and scary, moved, and veiled with a dark cloth.
Freeman-Jones says this is a modern example of how the university is not bringing equality and justice to its people. You can watch his full speech here.
This moment did not change the feelings of the event. The unveiling of the plaque is meant to inspire students, educators, visitors, and anyone who passes by to remember what King worked for throughout his life.
“It is of paramount importance that Dr. King’s life and legacy represents more than just a national holiday,” Wells said. “We must reclaim his spirit and … commemorate the man in full: a radical, ecumenical, anti-war, pro-immigrant, and scholarly champion of the poor who spent more time marching and going to jail for liberation and justice than he ever spent dreaming about it.”
While it has been 50 years, Chancellor Syverud believes not much has changed from when King gave his speech in the same room before his death.
“I’m saying that so much of Dr. King’s speech still rings true. Right here. Right now.”