Keeping the Message of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Alive

As we honor the life and work of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the federal holiday in his name, many of us will listen again to Dr. King’s powerful “I Have a Dream” speech that was delivered before an audience of more than 250,000 people gathered in Washington, D.C. as part of the August 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Decades later, Dr. King’s words resound with relevancy. Civil rights abuses and hate crimes have increased as restrictions on the right to vote have emerged. The tragedy of gun violence and disproportionate levels of incarceration are rising as a life-and-death gulf widens between those who have access to health care and family-sustaining careers, and those who do not.

Resilience, along with courageous resistance to these many injustices can be found among those who persist in their education pathways. At BMCC, the tools of socioeconomic mobility are being put in reach of those who need them most. We can feel the inspiring commitment and belief in positive change that Dr. King shared as he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, commanding that we heed the “fierce urgency of now … Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”

Dr. King’s sense of urgency characterizes the activism and commitment to a more just future that is palpable on our campus today. We stand together to fight oppression in all its forms — and we do so through the transformative power of education, through the building of community and experiences that support our students’ sense of possibility and the right to dream.

The commitment to equity at BMCC manifests not just in our words, but in our actions. A sense of urgency to level the playing field for our students has characterized many essential programs at our college, including initiatives funded by the President’s Fund for Excellence and Innovation.

One of these is the BMCC Race, Equity and Inclusion (REI) Steering Committee, which enacts concrete steps to strengthen equity on our campus. Other projects, like the BMCC Urban Male Leadership Academy, provide a cohort experience that offers dedicated counselors and the uplifting fellowship of peer mentoring. Still others promote culturally sensitive programming and curricula. They build career pathways and well-placed internships that open doors for our students.

A sense of urgency drives the generous support of BMCC’s friends and funders including Trinity Church Wall Street Philanthropies, the Carroll & Milton Petrie Foundation, Robin Hood Foundation, New York Community Trust, and others whose leadership understand that stability—including housing and food insecurity must be addressed, before a student can apply their potential and succeed.

A sense of urgency powered us through the creation of numerous transfer programs, including the BMCC and Baruch College Business Academy and the BMCC/Morehouse College Partnership which enables our Black male graduates to transfer to this eminent Historically Black Colleges and University (HBCU) in Atlanta.

Martin Luther King, Jr. himself attended Morehouse College in the 1940s and while there, wrote a letter to the editor of the Atlanta Constitution, responding to a series of racially motivated murders in Georgia. “We want and are entitled to the basic rights and opportunities of American citizens,” the young Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, citing the right to earn a living, to access equal opportunities in education, health, and recreation; the right to vote, and equality before the law.

Our college students share Dr. King’s passion for fairness, and opportunity for all. The legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., his dedication to nonviolence and social justice, remains a clarion call for each generation. His belief that education is the foundation for change and moves families out of poverty is at the heart of all we do at BMCC.

Here are some resources that could be useful as you introduce the work and life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to others:

I commend you for your important work at BMCC. I recognize the impact you make in small ways and large, as you support equity in your personal interactions and public life; in your scholarship and professional duties at our College. Your role as educator, program visionary, student advocate and compassionate colleague; your influence behind the scene and at the podium; your investment in our mission; your generosity in the classroom and beyond, keeps the message of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the mission of his life’s work, alive today.

I encourage you to reflect and recharge, on this momentous day.

With my warmest regards,

Anthony E. Munroe signature

Anthony E. Munroe
President, Borough of Manhattan Community College