On April 4, 1968, an assassin’s bullet cut down Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man of nonviolence who led a struggle for civil rights and brotherhood. Monday was his birthday. He would have been 72 years old.
To honor his memory, 38 people – students, staffers and families from the community – gathered around UCSB’s Eternal Flame at noon Monday. The flame was built following the turmoil of the 1960s and is inscribed with quotes from three slain leaders: President John F. Kennedy, his brother Robert F. Kennedy and King.
Ann Gabler, an on-campus employee, who was at UCSB 32 years ago, first organized the vigil for King three years ago. The campus, she said, was always alive with the spirit of the times – except that day.
"The carillon was playing. There were red flowers," Gabler said. "There was a survey around then. Eighty-two percent of people were writing poetry not for their classes. People were doing peace marches down State Street. … But it was very, very quiet when we heard Dr. King was shot."
Brian Pearson, a local anger management counselor who spoke at the vigil, said the leaders inscribed on the Eternal Flame should be remembered for their ideals and not their deaths.
"Instead of reflecting about their deaths, I believe we should rejoice in their lives. Their ideas will last longer than this monument," Pearson said. "They taught us to fight for our rights and for the rights of our brothers and sisters."
Brice Taylor, an adviser to UCSB’s Baha’i Club and an organizer of the vigil, said King’s struggle was not in vain, so long as people continue to fight for his ideals. "There are a variety of different groups, agencies and individuals that – whether they acknowledge Dr. King or not – are consistent with his vision."