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Celebrating MLK Week at NYU

Grace Lee Boggs

Grace Lee Boggs

By Grace Lee Boggs
Special to the Michigan Citizen

It gave me a lot to think about. On Feb. 6, I participated in New York University’s 9th annual celebration of MLK Week. The theme of this year’s celebration, organized by a 25-person committee led by Monroe France, NYU’s vice-president of diversity, was “The Power of Courage, Passion, Purpose, Perseverance.”

About 75 percent of those seated in the big auditorium were young people of color.

The first speaker was NYU president John Sexton. He recalled Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s saying years ago that “progress was not automatic or inevitable.”  He also informed us that NYU students today come from many ethnic groups, with no one ethnic group being the majority.

My speech was very brief. I recalled when Dr. King’s birthday was made a national holiday in the 1980s, we had no idea whether, like other national holidays, it would be celebrated with fireworks, BBQs and Black Fridays. MLK would be delighted, I said, with how NYU, like many other community institutions, has viewed it as an opportunity for reflection and community service. It’s as if the American people are finally responding to Dr. King’s 1967 call for a “radical revolution of values.” I also shared a few thoughts about the importance of visionary organizing.

Melissa Harris Perry, MSNBC talk show host and Tulane University professor, spoke about the importance of struggle, mainly citing the civil rights struggles.

On Feb. 7, I did a Q&A after the Athena Film Festival screening of “American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs” at Barnard College (where I received my  B.A. in 1935, about 80 years ago). Before I could catch my breath, dozens of people from the diverse audience who had viewed the film descended on me, asking for a picture with me or seeking an answer to a personal question.

I’m not sure what that was about. It suggests to me, at this time on the clock of the world, a lot of people want to become the change that each and all of us need both to save the planet and to evolve into more human human beings.

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