On Monday, Jan. 15, the long wooden pews inside Kilworth Memorial Chapel were filled to capacity. More than 300 people applauded, snapped their fingers, and shouted in agreement during Puget Sound's 32nd annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.
Eddie Moore Jr., a national diversity educator and motivational speaker, was the keynote speaker. President Isiaah Crawford, chaplain Dave Wright, and two student leaders also made remarks. And while the event was billed as a celebration, the evening more closely resembled a rally. Eddie’s painfully honest talk, “Why Keep Dreaming?” served as a call to action and asked the audience to consider, 55 years after King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, if the nation is any closer to the world King dreamed of at that time. The answer wasn’t simple.
Nia Henderson ’20, Black Student Union president, and Amanda Diaz ’18, ASUPS president, set the stage for Eddie. Both women discussed how far the college has come—the Class of 2021 is the most diverse in Puget Sound’s history, with 30 percent of the students identifying as people of color—and how much work still needs to be done.
“We have seen three consecutive ASUPS presidents of color,” Amanda said, noting that Puget Sound is a far different place today than it was in the ’40s, when faculty-led and administration-supported minstrel shows were held in Memorial Fieldhouse. But she also pointed out that the campus is not “divorced from the reality of oppressive forces.” ASUPS is working to counteract those forces by “constantly seeking to provide institutional financial support for students who have historically been ignored,”she said.
It was on this note that Eddie took the podium and stressed action during what he called one of the most segregated and divisive times in American history. Eddie stressed that while the nation is much closer to equality today than it was in the ’60s, systemic racism still exists, and is visible in the form of widening gaps between white people and people of color in wealth, housing, health care, and employment.
“The economic and social realities of segregation and white [privilege] are still alive today,” he said.
Eddie offered four steps to overcome the hurdles standing between society and true equality: Think ahead and be prepared for change, understand that everyone has work to do, don’t be afraid to speak truth to power, and do something. His speech came full circle when he came back to the “I Have a Dream” speech, marveled at King’s peaceful calls to action, and urged nonviolence to continue.
“Dr. King challenged America with more than a dream. His love was a call to action,” he said.
Puget Sound Chaplin Dave Wright ’96 then took the podium and elaborated on the importance of compassion in social justice work.
“As we live in the challenges that Dr. Moore has offered to us, and as we fight for justice, may we care for one another—acknowledging that weight, that pain, and doing what we can to be there,” he said. "Go in peace and go with justice."
By Anneli Fogt
Published Feb. 22, 2018
Photos by Ross Mulhausen