King’s legacy lives on


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Rep. Wayne Ford, D-Des Moines, posed a question to the roughly 200 people at the opening celebration for the UI’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration of Human Rights Week.

“Of all the states of America, what’s the state that said, ‘We will train black men?’ ” Ford asked the audience.

“Iowa,” the audience members in the IMU second-floor ballroom responded.

Ford used the example of Iowa being the first state to train black men for the World War I to highlight the legacy the state has had in the advancement of civil rights during his keynote address.

Years earlier, Iowa was the first state to guarantee black men’s right to vote after the Civil War, Ford noted.

Kicking off two weeks of events to honor King’s legacy, the opening celebration was intended to honor the civil-rights activist’s message.

“[We are here] to keep the dream alive, to promote civil rights and social justice, and to bring the community together to celebrate,” said Patrice Robinson, one of the event’s co-heads.

A handful of performers kept members of the UI and Iowa City community entertained throughout the evening. Vocal performances by the Voices of Soul, the Quire, and Charism dotted the program, which concluded with a spoken-word piece by Idris Goodwin.

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Katherine Betts, another co-head of the event, said one of the messages of the event was that a lot of progress has been made in civil rights since King’s time. But, she said, people “still have to continue, and there’s still a lot more work to be done.”

This message was echoed in the speech by Tom Rocklin, the UI interim vice president for Student Services, when he compared the struggle for civil rights to his experiences in education. He explained that while his students might make great progress in their short time spent in his class, in the grand scheme of things, there is much more work to be done.

UI President Sally Mason, last year’s keynote speaker, also spoke at the event. She introduced Ford by telling his rags-to-riches story of being voted “most likely not to succeed” in high school to becoming an Iowa state representative.

Ford also noted the recent crisis in Haiti, calling upon the Iowa community to respond as they always have in the past — with generosity and compassion for others.

“Iowa City, it’s in your hands,” he said.

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