OGDEN — Students at Weber State University will gather on campus to commemorate a major milestone in American history Wednesday.
Wednesday August 28th will mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington in which the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his now famous "I Have a Dream" speech. The Weber State University Center for Diversity and Unity will hear from keynote speakers about the meaning of Dr. King's iconic speech in today's society.
"When people think about the ‘I Have a Dream' speech and the March on Washington, they think about the key phrases like white children holding hands with black children and let freedom ring," said Adrienne Gillespie-Andrews, Coordinator of the Center for Diversity & Unity and LGBT Resources, Weber State University. "But the March on Washington was a march about freedom and jobs. And 50 years later when we look back on the dream, we're still talking about jobs and freedom."
Gillespie-Andrews said Dr. King worked with diverse groups to raise awareness of inequality for many different groups in society.
"In a country that didn't have our technology and media as we have it today, he let people know, inequality was happening, it was hurting people and that was not the democracy or the America that he knew," she said.
Gillespie-Andrews said there are disparities in minority communities, which stem from lack of access to higher education and once that access is attained, sometimes students don't feel like they belong nor do they feel like they can be successful.
"Where you graduate with skills and abilities that will get you the jobs that you need to support yourself and your family or whomever you would like to support," Gillespie-Andrews said.
Gillespie-Andrews said the Weber State University is committed to making everyone on campus feel included, which is expressed in the university's student government.
"We have constituency senators that are representative of populations on our campus ranging from veterans, athletes, and no n-traditional students," Gillespie-Andrews said. "To African American Senator, Native American Senator, Latino Senator, Asian and pacific islander senators."
Some students on campus believe Americans are living in a post-racial society but Senior Amir Jackson said there are two sides to the coin.
"I think that people want to believe that problems of the past are no longer problems of today, which shows me the goodness of the individuals in our society," said Amir Jackson, Founder, Nurture the Creative Mind Foundation. "But I think there's a denial factor there. And I do believe that the individuals are striving to make (a post racial society) a reality."
Jackson will be the keynote speaker for the 50th anniversary commemoration.
Other students believe they've seen racial progress within society.
"Although things are not as bad before, they could get better, and they will continue to get better," said Lola Moli, Vice President for Diversity for the Weber State University Student Association.
Moli said in planning the 50th anniversary event, students would express to her that this sort of event is of the past and not pertinent today.
"But these are problems we face today and will probably continue to face in the future," said Moli.
As a non-traditional student, Bryan Duquette approached Gillespie-Andrews about helping to organize the 50th anniversary event. He said as a young kid, the speech had an impact on his life and it continues to impact lives today.
"One of the things Dr. King mentioned in his speech was ‘not judging people on the color of their skin but the content of their character,'" said Bryan Duquette, Chair, Martin Luther King Day of Service, Weber State University Diversity Board. "And we can each individually do that and that is a step in the right direction."
In trying to encourage students to learn about and participate in events with racial and historical significance, Gillespie-Andrews hears students say they don't participate in these types of events because they don't belong to a particular ethnic group.
"I remind my students that we are unity and we are all diversity and we all bring something different to the table," said Gillespie-Andrews. "I like to help people figure out how they are different from other people and what value that brings to the dialogue and how important it is for them to be involved in the activities of the center for diversity."
Weber State University's Center for Diversity and Unity will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington Wednesday august 28, 2013 on the campus' Moench Mall. The event is free.