January 26, 2004
Yolanda King brings history alive in dramatic
By Louise Donahue
In a presentation that was part speech and part performance, Yolanda
King took her audience on a trip back in time at UCSCs 20th annual
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Convocation.
Yolanda King spoke January 20 at UCSC's 20th annual Dr. Martin
Luther King Jr. Memorial Convocation. Photos
by Victor Schiffrin
We must never forget the sacrifices made, King, eldest
child of Martin Luther King, told an overflow crowd at the Santa Cruz
Civic Auditorium on January 20.
For some of you, the civil rights movement might seem like ancient
history, but it was live, in living color.
Driving home the point, actress-producer King punctuated her talk with
dramatic vignettes from her traveling theater production, Achieving
Vivid portrayals included Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on
the bus, terrified demonstrators in Birmingham, Ala., being attacked
by police dogs and fire hoses, and a young woman marching in the Poor
Peoples Campaign after Martin Luther King was assassinated.
King reminded the audience that the young demonstrators in Birmingham
persisted, despite the attacks, and succeeded in desegregating that
We today have that same power if we but choose it, but choose
it we must, King said. What makes each of us unique is the
individual choices we make. There will always be doubters, those
who prefer inaction, she noted. I have heard it all, but I am
still a believer in the dream. I choose to believe.
We can throw up our hands in despair, King said, we
can write off the millions that are homeless, or we can choose to believe
in a different way and we can do our share to bring that world into
King noted the different ways her father has been honored since his
death. Its far easier to build monuments than it is to build
a better world, she said. My job, the job of all Americans,
is to make that dream a reality. Our very survival is at stake.
King criticized attempts to seek a color blind society,
however, calling such an approach naïve, unrealistic and
probably unhealthy. We must learn to respect and embrace the difference.
For universities, this means teaching about diversity and confronting
the mistakes of the past, she suggested. Outside the classroom, in everything
from dining hall menu items to roommate assignments, you can make
a real difference, she told students.
Responding to audience questions, King urged students to become involved
in the political process. It bothers me that young people dont
vote. Its imperative that you not just work with politicians,
but on politicians. Put some pressure on, put some heat on.
Asked whether she would endorse Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich for president,
King said she was not ready to make an endorsement in the race, but
that she was very supportive of his candidacy. I like him a lot.
Following her speech, King was presented with a key to the city of
Santa Cruz and a sculpture from Santa Cruz artist Barrington McLean,
who created the large bust of Martin Luther King displayed on the convocation
stage. UCSC Chancellor M.R.C. Greenwood, who delivered welcoming remarks
before Kings speech, was honored by the convocation planning committee
for keeping the dream alive through her support of the annual
Related link: January 5 Currents story on Yolanda
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