KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Several events took place across the metro Wednesday to honor Martin Luther King Jr. on the 50th anniversary of his assassination.
One of the events was a panel discussion titled “Reaction or Riot? Understanding 1968 in Kansas City,” held at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The event looked back at King’s contributions to civil rights and the aftermath of his death.
People from the community were encouraged to share their perspectives. Some people at the event said they were kids when King’s assassination happened, and they wanted to see what they lived through from a historical perspective. Others were much younger and said they want to keep King’s contributions and sacrifices in the spotlight 50 years later.
“A lot of people at the time did not like the message that Dr. King was spreading,” said Brandon Henderson, a freshman at UMKC. “And he kept doing it because in his heart, he knew that it was the right message. And we know that now. But I think for younger generations especially it’s important for people to know sometimes you have to do what’s not popular but still right to make change and improve things.”
The Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Center held a day of remembrance for King. They showed videos of his speeches for those young and old to look back at his impact on civil rights. Information about life during the Jim Crow era and segregation was also included.
As they watched King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, people wrote what their dreams are on Post-It notes. One person wrote, “That all hatred and racism will cease, and we can all come together as one.”
A woman honoring King at the center said she hopes people fighting for equality today will echo King’s messages of non-violence and togetherness.
“We have got to find ways to create justice where there is injustice but do it in a way so we don’t create more violence as we make an effort towards peace,” said Gwendolyn Hawks-Blue. “We have to stand up for the rights of all those who are marginalized and whose lives seem to be taken with little regard to the impact.”