Home News Local News ENMU-R observes MLK Day with virtual celebration

ENMU-R observes MLK Day with virtual celebration

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With public gatherings restricted under the state’s public health order, Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell commemorated Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday in a virtual setting.

In a nearly hour-long video posted to its YouTube channel, the college presented local residents speaking on the legacy of the Civil Rights leader.

Known for organizing marches from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital in Montgomery and his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, King was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the bill creating the federal holiday to honor King, which is observed on the third Monday each year, near his Jan. 15 birthday.

ENMU-R President Shawn Powell and James Edwards, career center coordinator, introduced the video. Edwards, who is also the first African American elected to the Roswell Independent School District board, organized the video commemoration and introduced its first speakers, Roswell City Councilor Angela Moore and Laday Jha McDonald, 14.

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Moore and McDonald, seated before a large monitor showing photographs of King with some of his well-known quotes, discussed what Martin Luther King Jr. Day meant to them and what they thought he would think of America today.

“I felt like he inspired me to be better and push myself and not let my color stop me and achieve more,” McDonald, a student at Mountain View Middle School, said.

Moore acknowledged King’s role in her being the second Black member of the Roswell City Council.

“If he hadn’t of done what he done, I wouldn’t be where I am. I wouldn’t have had this opportunity to run for elective office. That wasn’t something normal in the ’60s,” she said.

“He fought for that and voters’ rights for us to be able to go vote so I could be an elected official, and I don’t take that lightly,” she said.

While it is a federal holiday, Moore said Martin Luther King Jr. Day should not be a day off, but a “day on,” to offer service to the community.

“As African Americans or minorities that’s one thing we do less than anybody else is to not give back as much. So I like this day as a holiday as an opportunity for everybody to be a service provider,” she said.

“He marched so we could have the freedom, so we could be who we are and not be ashamed of who we are or the color of our skin,” Moore said.

“And be brothers and sisters and not be separated,” McDonald said.

The pair also discussed what they thought King would think of the Black Lives Matter movement and the state of race relations in America today.

Both said they believed King would support Black Lives Matter as it brings people together for a cause but he would not be happy about the violence in some cities or that there was still a need for activism for racial equality.

“The blood that he shed for this blood that’s happening now, it’s not equal,” Moore said.

Also appearing in the video were Rayfield Jefferson, pastor of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, and evangelist Carolyn Jefferson. Both teach at University High School.

Rayfield Jefferson said while King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is well-known, he had many popular speeches and used a theme King often spoke of: “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

“In today’s society when we ponder about the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, a recurring question comes about. And that question is whether one can make a difference. Unlike many other things in life, just one can make a difference,” he said.

“We must carry with us the notion, the idea, the truth that he was a man that was led by the spirit of God to evoke peace through love. He understood the notion that all men are created equal,” he said.

Carolyn Jefferson spoke of growing up in a small town in Texas, the only child of a Baptist pastor and a schoolteacher.

“My father was a leader in the community in love, equality and justice. He lived it, he preached it and was very honored to go and march with Dr. Martin Luther King in several of his efforts,” she said.

She said her family received bomb threats and recalled attending a separate school from white children where the textbooks were out of date and equipment such as typewriters often broken.

“What you see and who I am now is because of the training and because of the high expectations that I received at the, as they called it, ‘the colored school,’” she said.

She said she was a survivor of the Civil Rights movement and had a scar on her leg from when a classmate threw a rock at her because she typed faster than he did.

“He just could not believe that an African American child would outdo him in some way because he had not been taught properly,” she said.

“I’m happy to say today we’re good friends and we laugh about it. But I carry the scar as a reminder,” she said.

She also said a decade later, she became a principal at the same school.

“So yes, love, education, progress, keeping yourself focused on your goals and not being swayed or distracted by any ignorance or hatred will help that arc bend toward justice,” she said.

Carolyn Jefferson said she has lived in several countries, and she still believes in America and sang several songs that she said exemplify her feelings: “This is My Country,” “God Bless America” and “We Shall Overcome.”

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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