The UCSB Center for Black Studies Research began their Martin Luther King Jr. weekend with a ceremony at the Eternal Flame on Friday, highlighting the importance of love during an uncertain political climate.
Over 50 community members, students and members of the organization gathered around the flame as presenters outlined the history of the civil rights movement and King’s lasting influence. UCSB students donated the Eternal Flame to the university in 1968, commemorating Dr. King, President John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy for their work for civil rights.
This year’s weekend series of events is themed “I’ve Decided to Stick with Love,” a quote by King from his book Where Do We Go From Here? All programs throughout the weekend will include the theme.
“At the center of everything is love,” said Sojourner Kincaid Rolle, community liaison for the Center for Black Studies Research. “It’s [King’s] bottom line and I resonate with that very strongly.”
Honoring the memory and work of Dr. King, the event approached President-elect Trump’s inauguration with hesitancy, and the ceremony began with a prayer that expressed tentative hope for the incoming president and civil rights concerns.
“Having heard our first black president give an extraordinary farewell speech the other night, and our concern for the inauguration of President-elect Trump … we’re actually between two really interesting moments,” said Margaret Klawunn, vice chancellor for Student Affairs.
Klawunn said she is prepared to commit to President Obama’s ideals and “what UCSB really stands for” during challenging times.
“I was remembering the challenge that President Obama presented to us, which was to lace up our shoes and do the work,” she said. “We’ve heard his call to us and we can stand and accept that challenge before we get to inauguration.”
Rolle called the flame a “symbolic reminder of peace” and reminded the ceremony attendees to use love as a “personal guide” during peaceful protests.
The weekend will continue with events in Santa Barbara, including performances and events celebrating the African American, Native American and Buddhist histories and communities. There will also be a panel led by professors from the Department of Black Studies.
“Community support has been tremendous,” Rolle said. “We couldn’t do what we do without it.”
Rolle hopes the idea that love conquers all will persist after this weekend and continue as Americans face challenging times ahead. She said Dr. King’s message will survive over time, even when people cease to know who he was.
“Truth will survive, and it will come up and people will learn [about his message],” she said. “It’s a way of getting to a better world.”