ASU's 29th annual March on West celebrates Martin Luther King Jr.'s leadership through service

By

Alexis Alabado

Students, teachers and members of the community witnessed history come alive as they gathered to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy at the 29th annual March on West on Jan. 22.

The March on West at Arizona State University’s West campus is one of the many traditions hosted by ASU where the community is reminded of the powerful difference they can make. In 2020, the theme for the celebration was, “We are all connected.”

“Dr. King and ASU President Dr. Crow are in lockstep with the belief that inclusion, diversity and equity will make the world a better place,” said Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, MLK Jr. committee chair, vice president for cultural affairs at ASU and the executive director of ASU Gammage. 

“All people are entitled to an education, and all people receiving their education will give back to the community, to the state, to the nation and to the world.”

Volunteers greeted more than 900 middle school students from nine different schools across the Valley. The students were divided into “city” classrooms where each keynote speaker presented different aspects of the Martin Luther King Jr. era relating to their city. 

Allan Harris, a sixth grade math teacher at Campo Bello Elementary School, said the demonstration gave students a different appreciation for the struggles that others went through for their benefit.

“If we can build collaboration at this level, that’s where you get to see the movement of the next generation,” Harris said.

Students then created posters with phrases such as “Equal rights,” “I have a dream” and “Education for all” to take with them as they marched from Paley Gates to Kiva Hall, recreating King’s march on Washington, D.C., in 1963.

ASU MLK Jr. servant-leadership awardee Oscar Hernandez-Ortiz spoke to the crowd about the legacy of King and the importance of challenging injustices today.

“We want them to relive these moments because we want them to understand how powerful they were,” Hernandez-Ortiz later said following the speech. “I want them to realize that although we have a holiday and celebrate it, I know that they can understand — even at their young age — that there are still many injustices that we see day-to-day. The fact that they’re here and they have teachers that bring them to these kinds of events is a statement from ASU and our communities in Arizona that we’re ready to develop the kind of leaders we want.”

The celebration came to a moving end as Charles St. Clair, ASU faculty member and four-time Emmy Award-winning director, reenacted the “I Have a Dream” speech, a tradition St. Clair has been a part of for the past 29 years.