One of such presentations was a speech by Alpha Phi Alpha alumnus John T. Warren, who also spoke at last year’s vigil.
“For every black woman and man that succeeds, hundreds and hundreds are living below the poverty line,” Warren said. “I have a dream? You don’t have to go very far to see hopelessness. Just turn the corner left off of 22th or 15th Street.”
Warren, born in 1962, remembers firsthand the struggles of segregation from his childhood, and used his experiences to put the inequalities of the time into perspective.
“When you saw Dr. King, you saw what should have been the masses. He had to write the dream. He had to talk about the check that still has not been cashed,” Warren said, as he closed his speech. “He had to put it forth so that you would remember that it wasn’t always easy to stand here, look at you and do the things that we’re doing. He had to write the dream because the dream still lives.”
Miss USF 2012, Bionqua Lynch, opened the night with the national anthem, and later led attendees in a calm rendition of “We Shall Overcome,” a folk song closely tied to the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, around the MLK fountains for the candlelight vigil. All students were given candles to carry in memory of King.
Freshman Angelica Ducheine took much in from the vigil and understood how its messages could relate to a diverse college campus like USF.
“It helped me get a better perspective of Martin Luther King’s dream and how we do have diversity. It’s not truly there, but it’s getting there,” Ducheine said. “He died trying to make his dream happen, and now that it’s starting to, we should honor that, now that he’s not alive to see it for himself.”
Lester Duverce, another Alpha Phi Alpha alumnus, put the night’s lessons into contexts applicable today.
“Everyone of color has the same opportunities as those that were fortunate in the past,” Duverce said. “Now that we’re all fortunate and now that we have equal opportunities, there should be no excuse why we can’t progress together as one”
The MLK Commemorative Week continues January 16 with MLK Convocation Keynote Speaker Herm Edwards and concludes January 19, with USF’s annual Stampede of Service volunteer event. For a full list, visit the Multicultural Affairs website.
“The vigil is more or less the catalyst that kick-starts the week. A lot of people forget that MLK existed and forget about the struggle we've encountered not just as a race, but a people,” said event chairperson Rasheed Patillo. “The vigil is what reminds us of that, and as we progress throughout the week, it’s kind of like the light that sheds on everything else.”