People from all walks of Harvard and Cambridge life will gather today in Memorial Church to commemorate the birthday of the nation's most revered civil rights leader, the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
The ceremony, which has drawn participants from several graduate schools, the University administration and the undergraduate student body, is part of an official half-day campus holiday celebrating King's campaign to win equality and protection under the law for American Blacks.
Organizers yesterday called the Harvard event part of a broad drive to win a formal national holiday named after King, but the ceremonies here have also prompted reflection on the continuing relevance of King's work and the responsibilities of current Black college students to uphold his legacy
Rev. Melvin G. Brown, senior minister of Cambridge's Union Baptist Church and a principal speaker at today's commemoration, emphasized the need to examine specific ways King organized civil rights activism rather than merely admire his more dramatic speeches and accomplishments.
"If we are really going to do justice to the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, we must remember the totality of his life," said Brown. "When he was a student at Morehouse and Boston Universities, he involved himself in the Atlanta and Boston Black communities."
Brown added, "Not many students involved themselves in the community while attending Harvard. They look at it from a laboratory perspective."
Since King and other Black leaders secured legal guarantees of desegregation and voting rights in the 1960s, civil rights organizations have struggled to translate those victories into actual economic and political opportunity for minorities.
In an effort to update and rejuvenate the civil rights agenda. Harvard will sponsor a Martin Luther King lecture series in April, said Nancy B. Randolph, a special assistant to President Bok and coordinator of the lecture series.
Randolph, who frequently handles issues related to affirmative action and minority hiring, said the lectures are designed to honor King and "examine the political and social issues of our time."
Tom Bradley, the Black mayor of Los Angeles, has been invited to deliver the talks this year.
Black undergraduate interviewed yesterday generally agreed with calls for greater voluntary service by educated young people--of all races.
"Dr. King's importance lies in his willingness to disobey a given law because there is a higher one," said Bryan K. Askew '85. "All students, Black as well as white, should be willing to sacrifice a secular law for one that transcends human error."
Several groups of Harvard students currently participate in community work benefiting minorities. Among these projects are tutoring programs for children in Black and Chinese neighborhoods in Boston and youth organizing effort at lower-class public housing projects in Cambridge.
The Seymour Society, a Black undergraduate Christian fellowship, has also undertaken a variety of community service campaigns in recent years, including programs to fight drug abuse in Roxbury and educate poor minorities on the economic implications of nuclear arms production.
Tomorrow's services begin at 12:15 p.m. The program includes speeches and musical entertainment. The Medical School will independently observe King's birthday with ceremonies at its Boston campus