MIT Holds 49th annual MLK celebration

Dozier: “This event is a way for us to come together, share our hope, and be reassured by Dr. King’s words and wisdom.”

MIT marked its 49th Annual Celebration of the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr on Feb. 8.

The event was organized by the Institute Community and Equity Office, and hosted by President Sally Kornbluth. Dr. Angela Davis, an activist and author, gave the keynote address, and additional speakers included undergraduates, graduate students, and staff. The celebration also featured a musical performance by The MastaDonis Project, a black-led Boston-based jazz group.

Due to complications stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, events for the past two years were held virtually. Institute Community and Equity Officer John Dozier said, “This was my first in-person MLK celebration at MIT, and it was deeply moving.” In particular, Dozier highlighted how the event “really reminded me of how hard it has been over the last two years for people at MIT to feel connected to each other and feel like a community.” 

The first MLK celebration took place in 1975. Since then, the event has become an annual MIT community tradition. “This event is about coming together as a community to revisit the legacy of Dr. King. His insights and his wisdom are remarkably resilient,” Dozier remarked.

The celebration serves not just as a unifier for the MIT community, but also as an opportunity to reflect on Dr. King’s message of racial equality. Dozier said that, “anything we can do to get people thinking about Dr. King’s calls to action, the better off we all will be.”

Despite now being a longstanding tradition at MIT, Dozier said that the purpose of the event and the challenges that the event seeks to address remain relevant as ever. “The MLK celebration is an opportunity for the MIT community to pause, to speak to itself, to listen to itself, and to take one more step in this direction every year,” Dozier remarked.

Dozier emphasized the importance of collective reflection about Dr. King’s legacy, drawing parallels to contemporary American society.  In his 1967 book ‘Where Do We Go From Here?,’ Dr. King writes about “the challenges of maintaining momentum in the civil rights movement,” Dozier said. Despite having achieved “many legal and legislative victories…the movement’s work was not done, and American society was in deep turmoil. That book is filled with parallels to today,” Dozier added.

In addition to the luncheon, additional activities celebrating MLK included an art exhibition in Lobby 10, the MLK Leadership Award Ceremony, and an MLK Vendor’s Market in the Bush Room. The first annual market featured a variety of products from local black owned businesses. 

When asked regarding plans for future years, Dozier highlighted continuing to expand and grow the celebrations. “We are looking into ways to meet” that “interest,” Dozier said. 

“We move forward on the path to justice and we slide back—at the same time, over and over again. This event is a way for us to come together, share our hope, and be reassured by Dr. King’s words and wisdom,” Dozier said.

A recording of the event can be viewed here.