Vigil, march hosted by Alpha Phi Alpha honors Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy


Artist and activist Toussaint Werner, and Eastern and Alpha Phi Alpha alumnus, gives the keynote speech at a vigil hosted b the university.

Cassie Buchman, Editor in Chief

At this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day march and vigil, students took time to reflect on and commemorate the progress and strides King made while acknowledging there is still work to be done.

They walked from Andrews Hall to the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union, holding candles in Styrofoam cups that lit up their faces, singing songs such as “This Little Light of Mine” all the way there.

Alpha Phi Alpha, walking with tiki torches, hosted both the march and vigil to honor the fact that King himself was a member of the fraternity.

Zachary Booth, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha and a graduate student in counseling and student development, said the tiki torches were meant to symbolize them “holding the light.”

Through the march and vigil, the fraternity tries to live through King and honor him, Booth said.

“It’s beautiful, he really stood for a lot of our mission statement,” Booth said. “He did a lot for his community, for our community, for the whole world, so we are really just trying to go live by his example and try to set our own standards, trying to be commemorative of what he’s done for us.”

Diamond Dodd, a senior English major,said King’s message of peace taught that there does not need to be violence all the time.  “There can be peaceful solutions,” she said.

In the Union, the song “Hold On” was performed, and Langston Hughes’ “I, too” was recited before the keynote speaker, artist and activist Toussaint Werner, addressed the audience.

Werner is a former member of Eastern’s Alpha Phi Alpha chapter.

In his speech, he warned the audience against romanticizing King’s message.

“We talk about King in a whimsical way- that creates a caricature that makes us feel good,” he said.

“That’s cheating the dream. That’s cheating the legacy Dr. King left.”

Instead, Werner said, it is important to be honest about the struggles that come with having that dream.

“You have got to be honest about the legacy you yourself will have,” he said.

Werner gave some statistics to signify the realities African-Americans still live with, even after King.

For instance, he said, the median wealth of white households is now 13 times greater than that of black families and the median net worth of a black family of four in America in 2017 is $1700.

“We have to actively seek ways to change,” Werner said. “We have to stop looking for leadership, and start becoming the leadership. You have more influence in your block than Donald Trump or Barack Obama, I guarantee you. It’s your job to make America face America.”

It was this advice that resonated with Carl Winton, president of Alpha Phi Alpha.

“That stuck to me. It made me want to go out and change, because you can’t wait for someone if you want something to change,” he said. “Knowing all the stuff Dr. King did for us, for the country, not just African-Americans, but any minority­— he brought that change, and we still need that change.”

Werner brought up his young children, who he said are going to depend on the students in the room to “push the pathway out” for them.

“One of my other heroes, Malcolm X, is known for his statement, which is by any means necessary,” Werner said. “Those are words that you should hold close to your heart. By any means necessary might have to be a model you live by.”

Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].