Fort Lewis College students, staff and Durango residents marked Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a march and by encouraging attendees to reflect on how King’s advocacy opened new opportunities in their lives.
Several speakers drew on the theme of the event – “Because he had a dream, we can” – to encourage reflection and action in honor of King’s legacy.
“What can you do, because he had a dream, to take care of yourself? What can you do, because he had a dream, to take of our campus? What can you do, because he had a dream, to influence our community and make it a better place?” sociology professor Katherine Smith asked a crowd of about 50 gathered in the FLC student union.
Freshman Jade Graves, who performed “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” during the event, said because of King’s dream, students of color can go to college and have more career opportunities.
“I think it’s a beautiful thing that we celebrate what we have and that we are thankful for how far we’ve come,” she said.
However, Graves and others said they would like to see more done to combat discrimination.
FLC senior Brandon Turner said the progress that has been made on all kinds of discrimination across the country is “outstanding,” but he would like to see racism addressed within institutions, such as the prison system.
“We lock up disproportionately more black folks than anybody else when they are a minority in this country,” he said.
Problems with discrimination in Durango were highlighted last week during a listening session where residents of color said they sometimes feel unsafe in town, hesitate to apply for jobs for fear of discrimination and leave the area for lack of acceptance.
Graves and Black Student Union Co-President April Valino said they had felt silently judged in Durango for their skin color.
For example, Valino said she went out on a date to a nice restaurant in Durango and white diners stared at her.
Graves said she experienced similar situations.
“There is this energy that makes me feel like I don’t really belong,” said Graves, a freshman studying software engineering. “They just kind of stare for a little too long and then they will whisper and then stare.”