Nearly four decades after his assassination, Martin Luther King's messages of nonviolent change, tolerance and integration are as relevant today as they were during the Civil Rights Movement he helped lead, Colorado Mountain College officials said Monday.
While many students across the state and country were awarded a day off school to commemorate the national holiday recognizing King's birth, students at CMC's Alpine Campus in Steamboat Springs began their first day of the spring semester with reminders of the life and legacy of America's most famous civil rights activist.
King, who would have turned 76 on Saturday, was assassinated in 1968 at age 39.
CMC opened its cafeteria doors to students and the community Monday for a free lunch and viewing of a slideshow compiled by Tommy Larson, CMC's student activities coordinator.
Larson, who said he continues to find inspiration in King's speeches and message, spliced audio clips from famous King orations, compiled a background soundtrack of sampled beats and projected black and white photographs of King and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s onto a large projection screen. The presentation ran continuously in the college's on-campus cafeteria for a couple of hours Monday as students, community members and school staff quietly ate lunch.
Larson said he hoped the presentation would attract students or community members who may not have taken the time to listen to or read King's work.
CMC also played a King video in its student lounge. The library has on display dozens of books about King, the Civil Rights Movement and African American culture and personalities. An informational kiosk from the Library of Congress about the history of African Americans in this country is displayed in the middle of the library. The displays will remain in place through February, Black History Month.
Using Martin Luther King Jr. Day to celebrate his life and legacy is more meaningful than giving students a day off school to ski or socialize, said Brian Hoza, CMC's director of student services.
"Taking the day off doesn't do anything to recognize the significance," Hoza said. "It's more important to have events and lessons to celebrate his message. As an educational institution, I think it's important to keep these issues in the forefront."
As with other historical events and figures, King's life and work must continually be revisited to remind younger and more removed generations of our nation's history and how we got to where we are, Hoza said.
And despite the years that have passed since King led bus boycotts and other efforts in the name of equality, his pleas for tolerance are relevant today, particularly as Americans grapple with issues related to homosexuality and religion, Larson said.
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