January 13, 2022

In his April 1960 address at Spelman College, the historically Black liberal arts college for women located in Atlanta, Georgia, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

That’s why we are here on this beautiful, smoggy Thursday afternoon after a long day of learning, working, and living to take a collective pause to remember, reflect, and to keep moving forward in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his commitment to gain voting rights, labor rights, and basic civil and human rights for the most vulnerable among us.

I’m Tamara Stevenson, vice president of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and chief diversity officer here at Westminster. I must report to you that this rally and march almost didn’t happen. Not because there wasn’t support from campus leadership. Not because of COVID-19’s latest attraction called the Omicron variant. But because of changing logistics involving schedules and municipal requirements for us to march through the Sugar House neighborhood. For the most part, the requirements make sense to keep us safe. However, the questions and expectations related to those requirements would have compromised our agency to plan a march that reflects Westminster’s charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent.

The planning committee even considered eliminating the march from our MLK Celebration Week activities. But by the time that meeting ended, the committee determined that we must have the march. While some logistical glitches rattled our planning, we learned from the courage and persistence of the activists who marched from Selma to the Alabama state capitol in Montgomery to protest the blocking of Black Americans' right to vote. It wasn’t just 1 march. It was a total of 3 marches that took place during the month of March 1965.

During the first march, Alabama state troopers attacked the participants. One marcher was shot by law enforcement and died eight days later. The second march occurred without incident until the marchers got to the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where they were met with violence by Alabama law enforcement officials. That day would become known as “Bloody Sunday." Thousands of people marched to the Alabama state capitol for the third march. Although no violence took place at the march, 1 white woman who traveled from Detroit to Alabama to support the movement was killed by KKK members while taking marchers back to Selma from Montgomery. The 3 marches at Selma were a pivotal turning point in the civil rights movement, contributing to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Marching was an important part of the civil rights movement and marching still matters today. Marches and rallies are forms of non-violent protest where people gather with signs and posters and most important, their strength in numbers to draw attention to persistent and pervasive societal inequities. Whether you are here to fly with us, run with us, walk with us, or crawl with us, your presence here helps us all to keep moving forward.

Since the college will be closed next Monday, January 17, in observance of MLK Day, make it a day on, not a day off, by taking action in your own way to be a productive part of the communities where you live, learn, work, worship, play, and live.

Please help me thank the 2022 MLK Celebration Week Planning Committee, who tirelessly gave time to create this meaningful commemoration for our campus community:

  • Elyse Correa
  • Kari Lindsey
  • Ian Troost
  • Marilee Coles-Ritchie
  • Jessica Brazell-Brayboy
  • Jan Saeed
  • Kelly Asao
  • Sophie Caligiuri
  • Bri LeBreton

Thanks to the B.W. Bastian Foundation for their generous support for the Diversity Lecture Series and DEI work at Westminster and partnering sponsorships from Cigna, Zions Bank, Rocky Mountain Power Foundation, and Mark Miller Subaru.

Tamara N. Stevenson, EdD
Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Chief Diversity Officer