In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and as commemoration of his March on Washington, Brigham Young University hosted the Walk of Life event on Jan. 19. More than 850 students and community members participated in a candle-lit walk from the Carillon Bell Tower to the Wilkinson Student Center. The event was organized and sponsored by members of the Multicultural Student Services, led by Mario Pereyra, with the help of the Black Student Union.
Around 5:30 p.m. Monday night, participants gathered at the bell tower and lit candles, symbolizing the light of love and progress. During the walk, participants sang traditional hymns including We Shall Overcome, This Little Light of Mine, and Swing Low Sweet Chariot. Andy Himebaugh, a research assistant at BYU, participated in the walk. “Amongst these [hymns] a quiet reverence for just how far we have come as a people and nation [could be felt]," he said.
“This walk is open to the campus and community,” said Ann Marie Lambert, director of the Multicultural Student Services. Fathers, mothers and children, especially biracial and adopted children, find acceptance in the Walk of Life event, she said.
Among the participants were members of the local police department and the mayor. “We had great community participation,” said Nathan Ormsby, assistant director of the Multicultural Student Services.
Participants walked to the Wilkinson Student Center where various community members spoke on Dr. King’s vision. The College of Family Life sponsored an essay competition, and the winning essay was read. A student read, “How Long, Not Long,” a speech by Dr. King. The Black Student Choir also performed.
Pastor France Davis of the Salt Lake Calvary Baptist Church then spoke of his experiences with Martin Luther King Jr. As a reporter during the Civil Rights Movement, he met Dr. King personally and participated in the March on Washington. He shared inspiring stories of his personal interaction with Dr. King, Lambert said.
Rev. Davis spoke on how to create meaningful change, which begins by loving others. To do that, he said, "Start by knowing who you are." In changing the world, he told the audience to "prepare ourselves as if everything depended upon us," and to "approach the task ahead as a humble servant."
"I think it's very important to have this celebration every year to remind us of the struggles some of our fellow brothers and sisters had to endure and teach us more about civil rights and the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.," Mario Pereyra said. "It is a great cultural education tool and I hope more people will continue to come out and support this event in the future."
The Walk of Life event helps foster feelings of peace among all people. “I grew up thinking that most people from the generation of my grandparents must be racist,” Brother Himebaugh said, “but a cultural activity like this where living witnesses of Dr. King’s work radiate as much fervor for love and peace as any other person gathered there to celebrate really touched my heart.”
In conjunction with the Walk of Life event, around 500 students participated in a service project that morning. They created school bags and other items for underprivileged children.