Editor's Comment: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Remembering after Forty Years

Article excerpt

This year marks the 40th anniversary since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. As I, many of you remember vividly where you were and what you were doing on the fateful evening when Dr. King was killed. On the evening of April 4, 1968, I was on duty as the evening counselor at a predominantly White community college in North Florida. Each counselor from the college's counseling center had to work one night of the week to be available for students who attended evening classes, and this evening was my night. I was one of only two professional Blacks at the entire college that enrolled thousands of students. Both of us were counselors; there were no Black teachers or professors.

A Black student telephoned me on this fateful evening in tears, asking me had I heard the news about Dr. King. The phone conversation was brief, leaving me shocked, numbed, and angry. immediately called a member of my family who confirmed the student's message and gave me up-to-the-moment details from ongoing TV news reports. Learning that incidents of violence by both Blacks and Whites had erupted around the country as well as in the local city, I decided to depart the campus early as a precaution for my safety.

Within days after Dr. King's death, I wrote "Death of a Hero," a poem that captured my feelings and saluted a hero who had been lost to his race, country, and the world (Harper, 2004). In the midst of a college campus and nation in grief, anger, and confusion, I believed, as numerous other Blacks, that we had to do something to advance the racial struggle for which Dr. King had died. Five months after Dr. King's death, I found myself at Florida State University (FSU) as a counseling doctoral student who was very much involved in advancing King's struggle and dream within the campus arena. As students and members of the Black Students' Union (BSU), we unknowingly had picked up Dr. King's baton as surrogate drum majors for the cause of race and justice, while simultaneously focusing on our academic studies. Our BSU goals were to meet needs of Blacks on the campus, improve the racial climate, and educate misinformed Whites. …