Members of the GW community read MLK’s writings during “Messages from the Mountaintop.”
By Briahnna Brown
George Washington University community members took turns all day Thursday reading aloud words written by Martin Luther King Jr. in letters, speeches, sermons and books as part of GW’s month-long observance of MLK’s birthday.
Speakers were bundled up on Kogan Plaza as they read from a selection of Dr. King’s works in the daylong program “Messages from the Mountaintop.”
The event, one of many King Week events GW’s Multicultural Student Services Center is hosting, allowed for anyone to stop by the podium and read Dr. King’s writings to the GW community passing through Kogan Plaza.
Michael Tapscott, director of the MSSC, said that the annual event has been held for over a decade at GW as a way to keep Dr. King’s values present.
“As people walk through, some may stop and hear, some may stop and listen, some may pay not an ounce of attention, but our hope is that some aspect of King's message has penetrated their social bubbles,” Mr. Tapscott said. “We're not here to generate an audience, we're not here to be self-aggrandized, we're here to honor Dr. King, his writing, which was prolific, and feel, from reflection, the joy of his life here on Earth."
Groups of students walking through Kogan Plaza watched the participants recite their selected readings from the podium. Readers spoke into a microphone that broadcast Dr. King’s words through loudspeakers that could be heard along parts of H Street. Some passersby stopped by to grab a commemorative button or to reflect on the messages.
One of the first to read on Thursday morning was Danielle Lico, associate dean of students for student administrative services. She read “What Is Your Life’s Blueprint?,” an October 1967 speech Dr. King gave to a group of Philadelphia junior high school students. Its theme is planning for the future.
“I think the words about being true to yourself and continuing on the path you've decided that you want your life's work to be is particularly important when you're talking to a group of college students,” Ms. Lico said. “It's also important for people who are not students who think we know what our life's path is, which is to say that the path that you picked when you're 15 or 19 or 22 doesn't have to be the path forever.”
Assistant Provost for University Career Services Rachel Brown reads MLK's "Where We Are Going" in Kogan Plaza.
Rachel Brown, assistant provost for university career services, read shortly after Ms. Lico and chose “Where We Are Going,” an excerpt from Dr. King’s 1967 book “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?” Ms. Brown said that the words were as powerful today as they were when Dr. King wrote them.
“I want to believe we're making progress, and some days it's hard to see that,” Ms. Brown said. “Things like this, elevating Dr. King's words and bringing us together, gives me personal hope.”
After standing outside for an hour and a half waiting for his turn to read and supporting the event, Michael Christian Woods, a junior majoring in political science and Africana studies, gave an impassioned reading of Dr. King’s “Eulogy for the Martyred Children.” The eulogy was delivered at the September 1963 funeral service for three of the four girls killed in a church bombing in Birmingham, Ala. Mr. Woods described reading the eulogy as “powerful.”
“I'm here to pay my respects, and it's an honor to pay my respects to someone who fought for my freedom, fought for our rights,” Mr. Woods said. “He advocated, fought and was martyred for my, yours and everyone's freedoms and rights today.”
Helen Cannaday Saulny, associate provost for diversity, equity and community engagement, read Dr. King’s “Rediscovering Lost Values,” a sermon from 1954 where he discussed the ills of the world and the need for love rather than hatred.
“Given our national landscape, and what's happening with hate permeating so many different communities all over the nation and the world, his message of love and getting back to our moral compass is just as true today as it was then,” Ms. Cannaday said.