What students are saying about MLK and the holiday

By: Panther staff
Jan 15, 2024

The memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. at the Orangeburg County Courthouse. (Special to The Panther)


MLK Day ‘symbolizes freedom’


Jan. 15 celebrates the birth and impact of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., a legacy that still stands today.

For students like Madison Byrd, a sophomore biology major, it is more than a day off. Byrd said the holiday acknowledges how far the Black community has come and how much further it could go.

“MLK Day symbolizes freedom to me,” Byrd said, “not just because it's a national holiday that permits school absence, but because MLK had the courage to fight for freedom, or what he thought was freedom.”

Byrd said that though there is progress to be made, she gains hope from the activists before her.

“I believe true Black freedom is only going to be achieved by systemic equity and the loss of Black stigmatization, and I do not see either one of those things happening soon,” Byrd said.

“However, like MLK, it can never hurt to dream, and sometimes dreams come true. This is what gives me hope for the future, and having hope is like feeling free to me.”

Byrd is not alone in a hopeful feeling surrounding the holiday.

Freshman biology major Jordyn Hilton said it is a feeling all people could rely on.

“MLK Day to me symbolizes a day where we celebrate the legacy and life of the very man who was determined to bring hope and change in America for the racial and social inequalities we face in this world,” Hilton said.

“To bring hope to all the little boys and girls, even grown men and women, that we will all be seen as equal one day.”

The students also said their generation’s activists could look to King for inspiration.

“The fight didn't just stop with one victory and MLK was not always victorious,” Byrd said. “However, he and the other activists he worked with persevered.”

“The activists from this generation can learn to fight for what you want no matter what obstacles or challenges you may face because what you believe means something,” Hilton said.

A 2022 Brainly study revealed that 63% of the over 1,700 students polled could not correctly identify key strides made by King, so how can people ensure his legacy carries on?

Students commented on recent political debates on Black history in schools.

“They are trying to get rid of the honest truth about our history,” Hilton said.

“I definitely believe recent politics surrounding school curriculum are going to lead to a sugar-coating effect on the teaching of civil rights,” Bryd said. “This is why it is important for parents to also have a role in educating their children, especially Black parents.”

Hilton agreed that the best way to honor King is through embracing the community.

“The best way to honor MLKJ not only on MLK Day but every day is by supporting Black-owned businesses, participating in activism and attending events that celebrate the Black community,” Hilton said.


MLK Day: ‘A form of healing from what was’


The importance of the holiday for Martin Luther King Jr. is under question. People are struggling with finding ways to celebrate and explore the day’s meaning.

Jasandra Lloyd, a sophomore political science major at Claflin University, said, “I take the time to remember Martin Luther King. Every year I do community service within my city. We organize marathons to promote health and wellness in honor of MLK and educate the community on his story.”

Destiny Sellers, a junior liberal studies major with a concentration in prelaw and a member of the National Black Student Association at North Carolina Agricultural and Technology State University, said, “MLK Day is still very relevant; many are still taking action and using this day to honor his fight and do good.

“As a member of the national Black Student Association, we take this day to gain volunteers and do road cleanups in our community. Giving back and coming together to bring change to the community is why MLK Day is still relevant. It’s a form of healing from what was.”

“There are many ways that you can celebrate MLK Day. You just have to search for what you’re passionate in seeing a change in and take action,” said Briana Davis, a Claflin biology major.


Fulfilling a dream, or turning it into a nightmare


Are we living the dream or are we still living in a nightmare?

For Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2024, Claflin students ponder his famous “I Have a Dream” speech and whether his dream came true after his death over 50 years ago.

Many students have their own opinions on the dream and how it correlates with the world today.

Kamedyn Richardson, a sophomore mass communications major, believes we made progress in achieving his dream but still face inequality issues that he would not approve of in today’s age.

“Since MLK’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, I believe we had made a lot of progress and are kind of living his dream, but not as much as he would like because there is a lot of inequality like Black people are still disproportionately being shot up by police. So I think we still have a long way to go, but we still made a lot of progress like desegregation.”

Mar’keria Brown, a sophomore mass communications major, has a more positive viewpoint on the result of King’s dream. She believes we achieved everything he set out to achieve in his speech, like equality between everyone of different races.

“I do believe that Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech has accomplished everything it was supposed to. He dreamed of equality for everyone and for people to not be judged by the color of their skin.

“We are now able to come together as a whole, we all walk the same stage, we can all work in the same space, and we are all able to sit at the same table and talk to one another in major rooms. He wanted equality for all and that is what was achieved.”

Courtne’ Scott, a junior sociology major, cites a correlation between King’s dream and reality today. She feels as though we haven’t reached his dream because there is still inequality in the world, most notably in the workforce, and not with only race, but gender and preferences.

“No, I don’t feel like MLK’s dream was reached. I feel like there’s still inequality within the workforce. Not only race but also gender and preferences. I feel like we still have a long way to go.”

‘It’s just another day’


Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday is celebrated as a federal holiday in the U.S. in honor of his contributions to the civil rights movement.

But it appears that the current generation has quite different feelings about the event.

Twenty-year-old JaNasia Dooley, a student at Claflin University, said King did not have true intentions for the civil rights movement.

“Dr. Martin Luther King was an excellent Black man. But I feel as though personally that he wasn’t really for the people. He wanted integration just because he wanted to be with white women,” she said.

“It's just another day,” Dooley said.

Meanwhile, Faith Smith said, “The holiday isn’t celebrated like it should be.”

“His dream is still not fulfilled. I feel like his dream hasn't come true and never will because people are still racist,” Smith said.

Ferryana Jones, a digital design major, has a similar view.

“I think there was some sort of change and I understand why we have the holiday due to his hard work, but it's sad to say that our generation does not care. It is just another day because Black people are still fighting for equality,” she said.


The holiday should be celebrated


Martin Luther King Jr. was known for the work that he put into the American civil rights movement.

His most famous and biggest contribution would be his “I have a dream” speech that was given in 1963. He spoke on how there should be no more segregation in the United States.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is always held on the third Monday of January. We use this day to remember how brave King was and how big of an impact he left.

Students at Claflin University have different views on the King holiday.

Tiera King said, “I do feel like the holiday should still be celebrated because it has left a huge impact on many people’s lives. Even though we still deal with racism, it could have been a lot worse.”

Tavia Edwards responded to the question: “What do you think Martin Luther King would want us to be doing on his holiday?”

“I think he would be wanting us all to be celebrating this day together because he did not do what he did just for one race. He wanted everyone to just be united as one,” Tavia said.

Jakhia Scott said, “I feel like students today know what he did but they are not taught about how big of an impact he left and he has a lot do with how the world is today.”

MLK Day impacts Claflin


As the nation commemorates Martin Luther King Jr. Day, students across Claflin University’s campus are sharing their thoughts on the importance of the holiday.

The legacy of the civil rights leader continues to inspire conversations about equality, justice and the ongoing fight against racism.

At Claflin University students from diverse backgrounds expressed their perspectives on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Many highlighted the holiday's significance in promoting unity and understanding among different communities.

"I believe Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a crucial reminder of the ongoing struggle for equality. It's a day to reflect on how far we've come and how much further we need to go," said Jordan Jenkins, a sophomore majoring in mass communications.

Others emphasized the importance of education surrounding civil rights issues.

Jacelyn Porcher, a history major, said, "MLK Day is not just a day off; it's an opportunity to educate ourselves about the struggles that led to the civil rights movement. We must remember and learn from history to create a more just future."

The conversation extended to social media platforms, where hashtags like #MLKDayReflections and #MLKDay2024 were trending. Students shared quotes, personal stories and reflections on the significance of Martin Luther King Jr.'s teachings in today's context.

While students expressed optimism about progress made, some acknowledged the challenges that still exist.

Anthony Mack, a freshman, said, "We've come a long way, but we still have a longer way to go. MLK Day is a call to action for everyone to contribute to a more equitable society."
Section Navigation
Support the next generation of Claflin Leaders
Your support provides educational enrichment through student scholarships, loan funds, instructional classroom equipment, preparing Claflin's students to be leaders of the future.