President's Message: Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I hope this message finds you well as we look forward to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, January 17.
Dr. King espoused the inherent and inalienable dignity of humankind, often calling upon the morals of justice, equity and peace—themes that are relevant today, both at the University of Houston-Downtown and in our own communities.
His birthday is revered as an annual observance for the nation he called us to be. Designated as a federal holiday starting in 1983, it is a reminder that Dr. King’s legacy falls upon our shoulders to continue his great work.
He didn’t live to see his legacy come to fruition. However, there is no doubt that Dr. King left an indelible mark on the fight for civil rights and equality. Now, more than 50 years after his assassination, we still feel the momentum of his efforts and carry the full weight of his message that we “shall not be judged by the color of our skin but by the content of our character.”
We demonstrate that commitment daily through our altruism, compassion and service to others. UHD’s annual GatorServe event on Dr. King's birthday weekend will not occur due to the pandemic, but there are still many ways to be involved on this day and throughout the year.
Our neighbor, the Tellepsen Family Downtown YMCA, coordinated a volunteer opportunity for this traditional day of service. From 9 a.m. - Noon, community members will organize clothes, shoes and furniture at the International Services Warehouse, 6300 Westpark Drive, for Afghan families that have recently relocated to Houston. To register or for more information, visit this website.
Further, UHD’s Center for Community Engagement & Service Learning actively participates in projects that provide a positive impact for local communities. Our student organizations offer many opportunities for philanthropy. Also, Houstonians have not one but two scheduled celebratory events in memory of Dr. King, the MLK Grande Parade and the Original MLK Day Parade. I might add that UHD’s Cheerleaders and Gatorettes are scheduled to participate in the MLK Grande Parade, and I am proud to see our institution represented in this local celebration.
In addition, I’m pleased to see our faculty taking part in the everyday conversations that remind us of Dr. King’s vision. Dr. Vida Robertson, Director of UHD’s Center for Critical Race Studies, as well as Dr. Jonathan Chism, Associate Professor of History, recently participated in interviews (airing soon) with FOX26 to spotlight the significance and symbolism of this day.
I also look forward to an upcoming event hosted by UHD’s Center for Diversity & Inclusion. UHD Community Members may watch “King in the Wilderness,” which focuses on the last three years of Dr. King’s life. The film is available through the streaming service Kanopy, which is available for free via the W.I. Dykes Library. Expect more information soon on how to participate in a Zoom discussion following the viewing.
The University will be closed on January 17 in memory of Dr. King. I encourage you to spend time on this day—and every day—remembering the values he called for us to share with one another: respect, care and community. In a moment of reverence, I also want to share with you one of Dr. King’s quotes that I believe succinctly encapsulates his message of light and love:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Each one of us can reach that place of social justice for which he yearned and tried so hard to achieve when we work together.
Take care of yourselves, Gators, and one another.
Loren J. Blanchard, Ph.D.
President, University of Houston-Downtown