NORFOLK, Neb. – The City of Norfolk and Northeast Community College have been issued a challenge – a challenge to pick up and be the voice of reason in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King (MLK), Jr. Although people may not consider their roles as citizens, educators and students in the community as significant, Preston Love, Jr, said they would be wrong.
Love, founder and director of the Institute for Urban Development in Omaha, said during a virtual MLK Day program on Monday, even after King’s assassination in 1968, the spirit of the civil rights leader’s message calling for peace and racial equity remains as evident as ever in 2021. He said the answer to the question ‘Where is MLK now?’ is fairly straight forward – it lies in everyone.
“We are the agents for change and reform. We collectively must understand that we must or hope we will pick up the mantle and be the calm, the voices of reason to non-violence, the educators and the city leadership and all its pieces,” Love said. “And we cannot be silent. We have to be Martin Luther King – in our visions and in our dreams.”
Love, an author, adjunct professor at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, and alumnus of Norfolk Junior College, the predecessor institution of Northeast Community College, was invited to speak at the event, sponsored by Northeast and the City of Norfolk’s Mayor’s Diversity Council.
“So, when people ask the question, “Where is Martin Luther King,” he said, “I hope the answer will be over there at the community college and over there at the city because they represent everything that Martin Luther King represented and they’re doing their best to provide the environment to make things better. Not in Washington D.C, not Lincoln, in Norfolk.”
Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning and Northeast President Leah Barrett echoed Love’s remarks. Moenning, who called King a “modern day prophet,” said the Mayor’s Diversity Council reflects the late civil rights leader’s narrative of his idea of community.
“That we are all bonded, that we all have shared responsibility for one another. That we may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”
Barrett said Love reminded those who viewed Monday’s presentation of their personal responsibility to be the change people want to see.
“The role that we have as leaders and educators needs to be thought about today; maybe more a day of reflection, a day to think, but our actions have to lead us to tomorrow. I appreciate the challenge.”
Barrett said the work the College has undertaken as a member of the community – not only in the City of Norfolk, but with colleagues across Northeast’s 20-county service area – reflects the importance of open dialogue, listening and reflect and remember the history of the civil rights movement.
“Martin Luther King, Jr. made an incredible contribution to our world that we must think about every single day,” she said.
Earlier Monday, Ike Rayford, president of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) Chapter in Sioux City, Iowa, shared his thoughts with faculty and staff during Northeast’s annual Spring In-Service. Speaking from the College’s extended campus in South Sioux City, he said it is time that Americans go deeper and be more concrete in their actions when it comes to racial equality in the country.
“If we continue to weaken ourselves, we’ll be right for the enemy to take over,” Rayford said. “We have to not be our own worst enemy.”
Rayford said when it comes to talking about color, everyone is a color at the end of the day and a member of the human race. He stressed the importance of not only speaking out on issues, but finding solutions through conversations. As the nation recognizes King’s birthday, Rayford said people who seek change must do everything they can do to speak out on systemic racism.
“We all have the power to start chipping away at those injustices today.”
As he recited King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Rayford asked the audience to listen and make a connection from 57-years ago on the day the speech was delivered in Washington D.C., to today.
“And if there is a connection, then I ask you, how do we fix it; how do we change? Because we can’t continue to be where we were 50, 60 years ago.”