Daughter of Malcolm X calls for continued action during MLK celebration

Ambassador Attallah Shabazz

During Florida State University’s 24th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Celebration on Jan. 12, guest speaker Attallah Shabazz cautioned the youth of today against being sloganeers, encouraging them instead to be problem solvers like those of the civil rights movement.

’I have a dream’ is more than a slogan,” said Shabazz, who is the eldest daughter of El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz — better known as slain human rights activist Malcolm X.

Shabazz asked the crowd of predominantly college students to go back through history, decade by decade, and emulate individuals who thought critically and persevered in order to made a difference in the world around them.

“No one could have imagined that 10, 20, 30, 40 or nearly 50 years later that the work that was being done then, you would commemorate now,” she said. “It’s quite important in the spirit and memory of those who have gone before us and for the family members who have to live without them.”

Shabazz underscored the importance of liking yourself, loving yourself and knowing yourself. She asked the audience to quietly search themselves to fill in the blanks of their individual characteristics, such as “good” or “smart,” and then called them to create a plan to develop their gifts.

“Be your best, do your best, achieve your best — by any means necessary,” she said.

Shabazz is an ambassador-at-large representing the nation of Belize, as well as a producer, writer and motivational speaker.

Earlier during the event, which took place in Ruby Diamond Concert Hall on the Florida State campus, President Eric J. Barron made opening remarks, pledging to keep the university vigilant in making sure that King’s message remains a part of its mission.

“This day of songs, speeches, recognitions and other activities lifts us up and inspires us so that we don’t think about King’s values and his message just one day a year or one week a year, but we think about them all year long,” Barron said.

Also during the event, Florida State presented its 2012 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Award to Jimmy Pastrano, an academic program specialist in the College of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. The award honors a university employee who has rendered outstanding service in keeping with the principles and ideals of King. It carries a $1,000 stipend.

The weeklong King celebration — sponsored by the university’s Student Government Association, the Golden Tribe Lecture Series and the Division of Student Affairs — started with an oratorical contest on Jan. 9.

The Night of the Arts followed on Jan. 10. Hosted by Florida State’s Center for Multicultural Affairs, it allowed FSU students and members of the Tallahassee community to demonstrate aspects of the civil rights leader’s legacy through song, dance and poetry.

About 40 spectators also came to view a video of King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which he delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in August 1963.

Amber Hampton, a student program specialist with the Center for Multicultural Affairs and member of the Night of the Arts planning committee, said the performances served to remind those in attendance of the importance of community.

“Being involved on campus and sharing your talents with others, whether it be through art or education, is really important,” Hampton said. “I think, just from our office, and from the life that I’ve lived, that when you’re in an inclusive community, and a community that promotes a sense of justice, a sense of equality, it’s an environment that’s more conducive to people feeling like they can be powerful being exactly who they are.”

Night of the Arts performances included a contemporary, lyrical dance routine performed by FSU student Richelle Collins, who said she hoped to demonstrate Dr. King’s passion for equality and justice.
The event also attracted members of the community outside of the university. Shirley Smith, a teacher at Tallahassee’s Golden Brook Preschool, who also attended the Jan. 9 oratorical contest, performed the song “Let There be Peace on Earth” as a tribute to King.

“I like Dr. Martin Luther King because he stood up for what is right, what is good, and he didn’t just do it for himself but for others,”Smith said. “I sang ‘Let There be Peace on Earth’ because the song says, ‘Let it begin with me.’ I think it depends on each one of us to do what we can to make our mark here on the Earth like MLK as far as helping other people make life good for others.”

An evening of Dinner Dialogues on Jan. 11 provided about 40 Florida State students and employees with the opportunity to interact with Shabazz, while fostering conversations about civil rights issues of the 21st century, King’s reliance on his faith, and his peaceful action for equality and social justice.

Denise Mercier, coordinator of the Living-Learning Communities at Florida State, said she enjoyed the quality of intimacy that the event brought to the week’s activities.

“What I love about this event is that every year it gathers a pretty small and mixed group of people to engage in fairly intimate discussions among people with different perspectives,” she said. “Those discussions are then moderated by a nationally renowned speaker. I don’t know of any other university that offers such a wonderful opportunity to its students.”

Juan Guardia, director of the Center for Multicultural Affairs, said he hopes the discussions begun during the dinner continues for years to come.

“Whether it’s with classmates, in residence halls or with friends, we hope they continue that dialogue and really think outside the box about the topics that we’re talking about here,” he said. “If that leads to any course of action, then that gets us even more excited because we know that they’re taking it to the next level and being very proactive about it.”

The week will conclude Monday, Jan. 16, with a Day of Service, which will give Florida State students a chance to engage in a variety of community outreach and volunteer projects.