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Marchers want to practice King's beliefs all year long

January 16, 2007|by DON AINES

SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. - The nation sets aside one day each year to honor the memory of Martin Luther King Jr., but a group of students and others at Shippensburg University said Monday that they try to practice throughout the year what the civil rights leader preached.

The university held a full day of events and tributes marking what would have been the slain Nobel Peace Prize recipient's 78th birthday, beginning with a panel discussion by local clergy in the morning; workshops on tolerance, immigration, black history in Shippensburg and other topics; an essay contest; and evening musical performances.

"He deserves our respect and honor, not just today, but every day," Jody Harpster, the university's interim president, said in the program leading up to the 19th annual Martin Luther King March for Humanity. He told about 120 people at the Ceddia Union Building that King's vision of America was "not a black dream, not a white dream ... but an American dream."

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The university's African American Organization co-sponsored the march with the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA), which supports several advocacy groups.

"The March for Humanity is about joy and respect," said African American Organization President Shauntae Doughty. "We're out to teach everyone about multiculturalism."

"We reinvigorate it enough that people don't forget about it," Doughty said of King's message.

"I was here to show my support and end oppression," said Teresa Peters, a member of Students Advocating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Ally Equality (SALE). "Within the MSA, we try to advocate for each other. On this campus we have to stick together."

"King's Dream," a multimedia presentation by Key Arts Productions of Philadelphia, wove together narration, vocals and images from the civil rights era. In addition to King's words, it contained the images and words of opponents of equality, from Bull Connor ordering fire hoses and police dogs turned on peaceful marchers in Birmingham, Ala., in the 1960s to Georgia Gov. George Wallace's pledge of "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."

"King's Dream" has been presented at schools and colleges for a decade, and narrator Joe Patterson said afterward that iconic images of the civil rights movement have to be passed to new generations.

"It's like ancient history almost. It's been almost 50 years since the height of the civil rights movement," Patterson said.

King rose to prominence in 1955 when he helped organize the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott after Rosa Parks was arrested and fined for failing to give up her seat on a bus to a white person.

Tasha Allen and Danielle Fasnacht, students at Shippensburg Area Middle School, were among about 85 people who took part in the march. Allen said much of what she heard Monday she had already learned in school, but she was happy to live in a country where people of different races can be friends.

Fasnacht said she learned from "King's Dream" about the violence that King and other pioneers of the movement had to face in bringing about change.

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