A day that started with a skiff of snow but warmed up to simply wet was the backdrop for the 2017 Martin Luther King Jr. Day observances in Fort Collins and on the Colorado State University campus. More than 1,000 people, young and old, filled the Lory Student Center Ballroom after the march from Old Town Square that stepped off at 11 a.m.
Ray Black, assistant professor of literature in the CSU Department of Ethnic Studies, delivered the charge to the marchers before they left Old Town. He asked the crowd to consider four points about Dr. King and his message as they made their way down College Avenue:
- Love is not hate. If you say you love yourself, that doesn’t mean you hate anyone else.
- The message is more than “I Have a Dream.” Read more of King’s writings to fully understand the struggle, and why it continues to day.
- Do you celebrate Dr. King, the criminal? Some of those writings were from the Birmingham Jail; King was arrested repeatedly for standing up to unjust laws.
- Are you here to simply celebrate, or to continue, the legacy of Dr. King? How will you stand against injustice today, tomorrow, and in the coming weeks and months and years?
Other march leaders who shepherded the crowd to campus included students Brittany Otter, Nate Wiley and Vance Payne.
At the LSC, the program started with welcoming remarks from CSU President Tony Frank, who explained why the annual march and observance of King’s legacy matters to the CSU community: “It is a time when, no matter what we have disagreed about, what we have argued about, in the past year, we can come together over some things that transcend disagreements. It marks the beginning of our semester, and more, it marks our recommitment to what matters.”
He added that this year’s theme of Justice Now was appropriate, not simply because there is still much work to do to achieve King’s ideals, but also because many in the nation are saying it is time for patience. “Part of the root of the word ‘patience’ is being unwilling to yield or settle for less than what we want,” Frank said.
When something horrific makes news, he continued, we are outraged, we care — until we move on and return to our own concerns. “Only when we look up from our preoccupations and say, ‘enough is enough,’ when we look each other in the eye and say ‘enough,’ and we refuse to stand silently any longer, we say the time for justice is indeed now.”
Fort Collins Mayor Wade Troxell reiterated some of the points from Black’s charge as he read an official proclamation of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Observance in Fort Collins, adding that the city was committed to equity, inclusion and justice for all. A number of city council members, county commissioners and state legislators were in attendance, as well Front Range Community College President Andy Dorsey, Shelia Portorff of Poudre School District, and CSU Provost Rick Miranda and Vice Presidents Blanche Hughe and Mary Ontiveros.
The poetry and essay competition winners from the Poudre School District read their works, and entertainment was provided by singer Sierra Lee and dancer Ratu, both CSU studetns. The program wrapped up with a powerful spoken word performance by Michelle Mendoza, a junior in the CSU College of Agricultural Sciences.