DURHAM – Duke Athletics hosted an MLK Unity rally virtually Monday morning, to honor the life and legacy of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Several influential members of the Duke community spoke at the event and it was moderated by Duke, Assistant Director of Athletics/Competitive Excellence, People and Culture. Troy Austin. Guest speakers included: Dawn Jonesdirector of the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture; Vincent E. Pricepresident of Duke University; La’Meshia Whittington, deputy director of Advance Carolina and director of campaigns for the Black Alliance of North Carolina; Duke Softball Head Coach Marissa Young and senior Kristina Foreman as well as junior athletics Elasia Campbell.
As the keynote speaker, Whittington highlighted many of the challenges facing the black community today and called for new action to address these issues, while emphasizing the importance of unity.
“Let me be very clear in closing – today is not a day off,” Whittington said. “It is not a holiday to say we have won. It is a day of deep reflection, strategic planning and intentional unification. There are many problems, but we are many and it takes a village So today I commend the student-athletes at Duke University, Coach Young, President Price and the leadership, for taking up the torch and calling for a day of unity, not a day of rest and silence. Today I will not quote “I have a dream”, Today I will again quote Dr. King’s last words to the essential workers, the grassroots people of our nation. We must give ourselves to the fight until the very end. Nothing would be more tragic than to stop there. I must go all the way. My charge today is that we must go all the way.
Foreman added her potential as a young black student-athlete in this country.
“Growing up, I was always taught that America was the land of equal opportunity,” Foreman said. “It was the place where, regardless of your background, socioeconomic status, race, culture or gender, you could succeed if you held on to your boots and worked hard. and as I matured and experienced the world as a black woman, the idea of a so-called “American dream”, quickly diminished. I realized that great opportunities were reserved for those who had lighter skin and that second chances were rare when you had skin like mine how hard i work, or how talented i am, there are obstacles in this life that i will face.
“I’m from Florida and on my last drive to Durham, NC, I saw 13 Confederate flags. And those were the only ones I could see from the freeway. 13 places I’m not not welcome. Not because of my personality, not because of my accomplishments, not even for the person I am, but deeply about who I seem to be, something I cannot change. It’s shocking to me that even at today’s age I have to figure out finding ways to better conserve gas and pre-map where I can stop to feel even remotely safe.But despite experiences and encounters i have had over the last 20 years of my life i still believe in this nation i still believe this country can be what i was always taught a place where if you work you can make your dreams come true. The job is not done. We need to keep pushing for change.
Campbell then spoke and stressed the importance of appreciating Dr. King’s teachings and philosophy.
“Placing Dr. King’s teachings into practice every day of your life is a few steps you can take,” Campbell said. “But it’s really when you believe in your heart that you should devote everything you have to fighting for justice when the time comes, that’s when you win your race. Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. is and should be more than happy to have friends who are a different color than yours I see a lot of thanks to Dr King with pictures of various groups of friends and couples but I never see any thanks for him in regards to his teachings I want to see more thanks for Dr King who supports and teaches the belief that no one should sit idly by and watch injustice but rather everyone should get involved to bringing justice.
Young concluded the event with a message to Duke student-athletes who are preparing to step into the world after graduation.
“Today is a step toward continuing the conversation, action and engagement with our allies to fight racism,” Young said. “I urge you to keep looking for ways to unite people of all colors, from all walks of life, in every field you enter. Many of you will leave Duke with access to decision makers in the medical field. , in education systems, in boardrooms, in courtrooms and even legislators. You can leverage your position to promote equality and dismantle systematic injustice. You have the power to create change in the world around us and I look forward to seeing the impact each of you will have this year and in the years to come.”