Becoming the beloved community: Auburn events to commemorate MLK assassination

Published: March 30, 2018
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Auburn University will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a series of events centered on the idea of “becoming the beloved community.”

“The beloved community” is a term King popularized when he addressed civil rights supporters at the end of the Montgomery bus boycott in 1956. He declared ending segregation was not the only goal but rather, “the end is reconciliation, the end is redemption, the end is the creation of the beloved community.”

Three events will be held on campus Wednesday, April 4, and one event will be held Thursday, April 5 – all leading toward Auburn becoming the beloved community.

Sarah Collins-Rudolph, survivor of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham and sister of Addie Mae Collins—one of the four girls killed in the bombing, will speak at 1 p.m. Wednesday at Pebble Hill. Collins-Rudolph will present “Fifty Years Later: 1968-2018 Race and Faith in the U.S.”

At 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, students, faculty, staff and community members will gather on the Haley Concourse and march to Langdon Hall. There, Collins-Rudolph will host a question-and-answer session. A candlelight vigil will follow at 7:05 p.m. on Samford Lawn. Samford Hall’s bells will chime to commemorate the time King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968.

On Thursday, from 1:30-5:30 p.m., the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Arts will host a series of events Thursday including intergenerational, interdisciplinary and interfaith discussions, and a panel will include Wayne Flynt, professor emeritus of the Department of History, and the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, senior pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.

Leading the effort to become the beloved community at Auburn is Joan R. Harrell, visiting assistant professor in the School of Communication and Journalism in the College of Liberal Arts. Harrell received support from the Office of Inclusion and Diversity to create a 21st century intergenerational interfaith version of King’s beloved community vision.

“Racially segregated white churches and black churches in the Deep South played an integral role in the civil rights movement, impacting the social-economic-political landscape of the nation and especially the culture of the state of the Alabama and the rest of the Deep South. The religious landscape of the Deep South is no longer exclusive to ‘black Christians and white Christians’ because the cultural and religious demographics of the United States are changing. These changes in our region seem to us to be an invitation for learning and dialogue,” Harrell said.

All events are free and open to the public. Attendees are encouraged to bring memorabilia to represent love, truth and justice.