Jan. 31, 2018 | Whether his plight was racism, poverty, segregation or war, Martin Luther King Jr. always believed the most impactful avenue for change was peaceful protest in the form of demonstrations, rallies, marches and boycotts.
The civil rights leader’s most cherished accomplishments are tied to that belief. There was the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 and 1956 in response to segregated public transportation, or marches in Selma for African-Americans’ right to vote, or the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 that culminated on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with King’s infamous “I Have a Dream” speech.
In honor of King’s beliefs and work, and in reverence for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, UAMS faculty, staff and students gathered to march and donate school supplies in support of educational equality. The event — “MLK: Walk, Give and Serve the Dream,” hosted by the UAMS Center for Diversity Affairs — was rescheduled for Jan. 30 after being postponed earlier in the month due to inclement weather.
About 20 UAMS faculty, staff and students gathered outside the UAMS Medical Center and walked a short route around campus that took them up Hooper Drive to Markham Street and east to Jack Stephens Drive and back to the Education II Building.
The marchers were then met on the eighth floor of ED II by dozens of students who donated pens, books, notebooks, binders and other school supplies to be given to children through the Salvation Army, Our House and Dorcas House.
Even from his early days as a student at Morehouse College in Atlanta, King was aware of the impact education could have, said Billy Thomas, M.D., M.P.H., vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion and director of the Center for Diversity Affairs.
“Even at 18 or 19 years old, he was interested in what we were doing in our educational system, whether or not we were educating people in a way they can communicate with others and have empathy and compassion for others,” said Thomas.
Thomas noted that at the time of King’s assassination in 1968, his focus had shifted toward poverty and its effect on people from lower socioeconomic levels obtaining opportunities. Thomas said King’s beliefs on the effects of poverty are important to the Center for Diversity Affairs’ mission to create a diverse student population at UAMS, and in turn, a diverse health care workforce.
“Poverty is a big influence in our world and impacts who has access to services like education,” said Thomas. “That’s part of what we need to look at in building a health care workforce that is reflective of our society.”