SJND Honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Students, faculty and families celebrated the memory and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at a special ceremony Jan. 24 that included a talk by Brian Copeland, a writer and comedian who is most well-known for his book "Not a Genuine Black Man."
"It's really nice to look out and see the wonderful diversity here," Copeland told the students, who had gathered in the Basilica for the special assembly. He went on to share some of the difficult times he experienced growing up in San Leandro in the early 1970s, at a time when the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights was called to the East Bay city to monitor race relations.
"When I was 8, I was told 'They don't allow any n__ at the park,' and I was chased by a group of older kids," he recounted. "A police car pulled over, and I thought he was going to help me. He said, 'What are you doing here?' I was handcuffed. I was 8 years old."
Copeland considers his experiences as a step toward improving diversity for all, based on the early work done by Dr. King and the enforcement of the Civil Rights laws of the 1960s.
"Diversity is so important, and it's so important to be comfortable with who you are," he told the students. "No one has the right to determine who you are, except for you."
Students also participated in the assembly, which began with a stirring performance of "The Lord's Prayer," sung by freshman Destiney Knuckles, pictured left. She also sang a beautiful version of the gospel-inspired "His Eye is On the Sparrow."
Along with other members of the African American Student Association, Laurence Atkins '14 participated by reading a portion of a speech given by Dr. King in April 1967, the year before he was killed. In it, King called for the "fierce urgency of now" in an attempt to summon Americans to protest Vietnam.
Dr. King's remarks, though, serve to inspire today's youth to continue his work in regard to peace and equality, Laurence said.
"Now let us begin," Laurence read from the speech. "Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response."
Laurence continued: "Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history."