Over five decades ago, Martin Luther King Jr. inspired a nation to stand up and take steps in the fight for justice and equality. For 29 years, Eugene has commemorated King’s birthday with a march rallying locals and others around promoting civil rights.
The march began in front of Autzen Stadium in Eugene, with hundreds gathered to hear from local government and civil rights leaders, as well as community members.
Tarik Richardson, member of the Black Student Union at the University of Oregon, helped facilitate and lead the march.
“Not everybody has to be a Martin Luther King,” Richardson said, but urges that anyone can get involved and support the community.
Other students share this ideal for inciting change within the community. Jasmine Vega-Heath, vice president of both Lane student government and internal affairs of the BSU, helped prepare the MLK march in collaboration with student organizations at the University of Oregon.
“I would like to see more students on our campus be more involved,” Vega-Heath said. “I would like to see students come into the ASLCC office and ask how they can be involved.”
Courtney Leonard, instructional program administrator at North Eugene High School, spoke about her admiration and support of student organizations. Leonard is active in supporting high school students at NEHS and describes her job as being there for the students.
“This march for me is a form of action,” Leonard said. “We can speak beautiful words and we can have really strong values about something, but until we stand up there is no change until it gets made.”
Community members and local leaders all came out to support the cause of justice and to inspire the rest of the community to take part. Lane President Mary Spilde spoke about her goals for the college.
“Our main work is to let students know that Lane is a welcoming place for them, where they have a right to access higher education,” Spilde stated. “There is much work to be done and King’s vision has not been fully realized.”
Spilde’s ending remarks were of her desire to see students “engage both inside and outside of the classroom to really try and realize King’s legacy.”
The march ended at the Shedd Institute of the Arts, where the community came together to honor the diverse groups and peoples within Lane County and to congratulate those who make it their life’s work to promote justice and equality. Eric Richardson, president of the Eugene/Springfield NAACP, spoke before the march to highlight an important aspect of the day.
“I don’t want to belittle the fact that King died by a bullet, and the bullet came from someone’s intentions,” Richardson said. “It’s the intentions that matter, and we want people to have good intentions with their lives and their hearts.”