Seventy people participated in the seventh annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday at the Eternal Flame Monument on campus Monday.
This year, the event was also dedicated to the memory of Dr. Shirley Kennedy, a lecturer in the Black Studies Dept. and co-founder of the Building Bridges Community Coalition who died one year ago. The event was hosted by the UCSB Baha’i Club and the BBCC.
Dr. Kennedy’s son, Colin Kennedy, thanked the audience for its support and talked briefly about his mother.
“She taught us social justice. And what is more important, she was respected by people who did not agree with her views,” Kennedy said.
Brice Taylor, Baha’i chair and master of ceremonies, also spoke in honor of Dr. Kennedy.
“She was a spokesperson for the values of civil rights,” Taylor said. “I appreciate her alignment to the principles of Martin Luther King.”
King was born in Atlanta, Ga., on Jan. 15, 1929, and was assassinated April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tenn. Taylor opened the meeting with a speech commemorating King, one of the most visible civil rights advocates in U.S. history.
“He promoted a nonviolent program for justice. He was willing to give his life for what he believed and he was a Nobel Peace Prize [winner]. Because of him we are more sensitive of racial equality,” Taylor said. Anne Gabeler, artist and Baha’i member, said a prayer at the ceremony in remembrance of King.
“He believed all people were equal in the eyes of God,” she said. “What we learned from him is respect. He died in the name of civil rights. I do not want people to forget this. The Eternal Flame was built in 1968, during the Vietnam War. Now we are facing global conflicts also, and it is time to be conscious of ourselves as global citizens.”
Poet Sojourner Kincaid Rolle gave a brief speech dedicated to Dr. Kennedy. She emphasized the need to “create, not to destroy.”
“There is another Eternal Flame in Washington and in the Atlanta King Center. They represent peace and love all over the world,” Rolle said. “We all step in the shadow of Dr. King.”
Rolle was followed by a musical performance by the group Mama’s Voices, who sang “Let It Shine” and a version of “Let My People Go.” Finally, the audience made a circle around the Eternal Flame, held hands and joined the group for “We Shall Overcome.”
Some audience members also dedicated a few words to King’s memory.
“The legacy of Dr. King is the true understanding of what peace and social justice was all about. It is important for us to honor him,” Black and Chicano studies Professor Claudine Michel said.
Taylor closed the event by emphasizing King’s “nonviolent message” and dedicated his last words to the audience.
“The flame burns in our hearts,” Taylor said.