The Department of Africana Studies held the San Diego State University Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Luncheon in the Fowler Family Ballroom at the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center on Thursday. The master of ceremonies was Dr. Shirley Weber, Chair of the Africana Studies Department.
After an invocation, SDSU President Elliot Hirshman gave his opening remarks, in which he discussed the importance of remembering King’s legacy.
The Black National Anthem was sung and a buffet lunch was served for the guests. Following the meal, a musical selection was performed by Jimira Long.
The keynote speaker was Congressman Bob Filner, who as a young college student had the opportunity to attend some of the earliest Freedom Rides, which were attempts to create an interstate issue of civil rights, therefore making it a federal issue.
“I remember when I was a student at Cornell, I was studying for a final and I saw the images of the Greyhound Bus from the first Freedom Ride on television,” Filner said. “They had set the bus on fire and then beat everyone as they got out. When I saw that picture I knew I had to be there and be a part of it.”
Filner also spoke of how divided the nation was during that time period.
“When I think back on those times, I realize that we changed American history,” he said. “America isn’t perfect. We all know how much more work that needs to be done to end racism and discrimination, but America has the capacity to change and that’s what Dr. King believed.”
An Unsung Hero award is traditionally given to a recipient who personifies a deep connection with the department of Africana studies and the community.
This year’s Unsung Hero award was given to LaShae Collins, administrative coordinator of the Department of Africana Studies for her contributions to the department and university.
Following Filner’s address, Africana Studies lecturer, Delores Fisher, read a poignant poem, which can be read on Backpage.