Dear Pitzer Community,
The same year Pitzer College opened its doors, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. accepted the Nobel Peace Prize. He did so, he said, on behalf of all those fighting to end what he called the “long night of racial injustice.” On Monday, Pitzer and the nation will honor his tireless battle for justice, for equity, and for the eradication of racism in this country.
Personally, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day also makes me think of my father, a minister who looked at the world in hopeful ways that influence me to this day. He had to leave school at the end of the seventh grade and made a living working in auto-body repair—a trade he learned when he was 11. I remember the day he put on a suit and tie, picked up his Bible, and walked out the door to join a march with Dr. King. My father faced discrimination his whole life, and he joined the Civil Rights Movement to make his voice heard. He also shared Dr. King’s audacious faith, refusal to accept despair, and abiding belief in the value of education. Neither of my parents graduated from high school, and they both made “You’re going to college” a mantra in my house.
It’s fitting to me that Pitzer’s spring semester starts the day after MLK Day, a national holiday designated as a day of service—a day on, not a day off, as John Lewis said. At Pitzer, we share Dr. King’s dream and recognize how much work still must be done to realize his vision. In many ways, we are here to go about that work, to seek both knowledge and social justice, to learn at the intersection of education and action. Fifty-seven years ago, at the end of “the mighty walk” from Selma, Martin Luther King, Jr. told a crowd of 25,000 people that “we are not about to turn around … we are on the move now.” The march for justice and knowledge continues. On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and every day, I am proud we are on it together.
Melvin L. Oliver