Saeed Al-Shidhani/The Daily Evergreen Martin Luther King Jr. would wear a suit when planning protests, but Associate Professor David Leonard imagines him wearing overalls.
Leonard, the chair of the Critical Culture, Gender and Race Studies department, said this is his favorite image of Dr. King as he gave the keynote address at the MLK Community Celebration Thursday night at the CUB Senior Ballroom.
Leonard’s speech, titled “Dr. King’s Dream, Body Politics, and the Continual War on Women of Color,” discussed violence committed on black women throughout history and how it helped inspire civil rights activists to fight.
“Events like these help remind us of justice and equality and to re-commit ourselves, to put on our overalls and get to work,” Leonard said.
People like Martin Luther King Jr. often become blips on the historical map, said Leonard during an interview with The Daily Evergreen. We don’t know about his life, his connections or the people who inspired him, he said, but only tell the history looking in one direction.
Ashley Orjiako, a member of the gospel choir which performed at the event, said Leonard’s speech was eye-opening.
“I was not aware of the violence that took place,” Orijako said. “I only knew the basics, like Rosa Parks refusing to move from her seat in the bus.”
At the event, Distinguished Service Awards for embodying the work of Dr. King were given out. The winners were recent graduate Nick Montanari, faculty member Eric Johnson, staff member Mary Lauver, community member Doris Sonstelie and the Association of Pacific and Asian Women.
The Lifetime Achievement Award was given to retiring Executive Director of Diversity Education Felicia Gaskins, who said she was “honored and touched by this award and happy to be a part of WSU.”
Guests were welcomed by event hostesses ReAnna Roby, vice-president of the Black Graduate Student Association, and Danielle Birch, cultural house assistant in the culture and heritage houses.
A jazz group performed “Blues of a King,” which was composed by Director of the School of Music Greg Yasinitsky. Other performances of the night included musical performances by God’s Harmony Gospel Choir and University Singers.
“Events like these really help us see what Martin Luther King Jr. really did for this country,” Orjiako said.