On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, services and a peace rally were held honoring the life and work of the famous and influential activist for peace and racial equality.A peace rally was held on the steps of Wilson Commons at 4:30 p.m. organized by both Students for Social Justice and the Black Student Union. Almost 40 people, mostly students, were present. “We played a supportive role,” sophomore David Ladon, co-president of SSJ, said. “We handed out fliers, spread the word, and brought people here.” Overall, Ladon thought the rally went well, but he saw room for improvement. “I would have liked more people at the rally,” he said. “The turnout was great for the weather and the campus, but still, we have an apathetic student body.” Junior LaShara Evans, president of BSU, had a more positive opinion. “I think the whole day was a success,” she said. “Students usually use the day as an excuse to get out of class, but this year it really meant something,” she said. Evans felt that the day’s events were especially relevant to UR. “It’s very important because of the separation in number between blacks and whites here. Minority students only make up eight percent of the undergraduate population,” she said.After starting the rally with a brief moment of silence, the vice president of BSU gave three quotes from King. The president of SSJ then gave a speech encouraging activism and involvement in the constant struggle for justice. The people who came to the rally then walked to the Interfaith Chapel for services. Some sang “We Shall Overcome” on the way. Services in honor of King began at 5 p.m. at the Interfaith Chapel. The turnout at the chapel was much greater than at the rally. The non-denominational service was introduced by Father Brian Cool and featured prayers and homilies by Cool, Bishop Gregory Parris, Rabbi Robert Morais, and Rev. Dr. Gregory Osterberg. Members of the Religious Roundtable represented several other faiths by reading passages from their respective holy books. After Hours, the Midnight Ramblers, the UR Gospel Choir, and Vocal Point, all coordinated by BSU, performed at the services. “Basically, our part was the peace rally and publicity in all events,” sophomore Laura Porterfield, vice-president of BSU and head of the committee handling the events of the day, said. BSU also invited Christopher Edley to campus, who will be speaking on “The Next Civil Rights Agenda” Friday, January 23. “We got three times as many people as last year,” Parris said of the service. Parris has been a chaplain at the Interfaith Chapel for 14 years, as well as being a pastor of the Love Faith Center in Rochester. He thought that Monday’s services were a success and a great improvement. This year was only the second that classes were cancelled for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and last year it received very little attention. The service was aimed at the entire UR community, not just the black members. “We tried to plan a service to commemorate his life but still would be inclusive,” Parris said.A free dinner at the river level of the chapel followed services. Like the service itself, the Interfaith Chapel and the College Diversity Roundtable hosted the dinner. Almost every table had volunteers leading discussions about King, race relations, and more personal stories of how racism and diversity have affected people. One facilitator was Thomas Cruz, an employee of the Office of Minority Student Affairs. “Once you get to a certain point, it’s like being a kid again. Race doesn’t factor in. And that’s what Dr. King challenged us to do,” Cruz said.Levesque can be reached at clevesque@campustimes.org.



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