“Are you living a life of courage?”
That was the repeated call from Boulder Councilwoman Junie Joseph and others at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at the University of Colorado Boulder on Monday.
Students along with political and religious leaders called for unity and action to a crowd of nearly 200 people gathered at the University Memorial Center ballrooms.
Joseph gave pointed examples of racism in Boulder, including her own experiences with it.
“When we hear a supposed member of our community who expressed discomfort and anger over talks of diversity and inclusion, we know that Dr. King’s dreams have not been fully realized,” Joseph said.
“When I read emails from members of our Boulder community referring to me as a token member of city council, as if leadership can only be conferred upon and to black people, I know that Dr. King’s dreams have not been fully realized,” she continued.
Joseph exhorted the crowd to “stand for those who cannot stand for themselves … (and) speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.”
CU Boulder graduate student Byron Adriano Pullutasig, who is a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, said King’s life inspired his own activism.
Pullutasig described the desperation he felt as he grew older and encountered barriers — trying to get a job, applying for college — that arose because of his immigration status, which led him to start speaking out and protesting.
“The act of coming out of the shadows by telling my story and taking action had a significant impact on my life. It turned desperation into hope and hopelessness into resilience. This is the ultimate impact Dr. King had on my life,” he said.
Pullutasig asked the crowd to be “active participants in our democracy.”
“If we are not proactive in our approach to justice, the passing of time will lead to stagnation or worse, degradation. If we take action now, the passing of time will lead to a world filled with love and justice,” he said.
Students from Whittier Elementary School took the stage to sing “We Shall Overcome,” and students read their own “I Have a Dream” statements — to become president in order to end deportation, for all women to have equal rights and more.
As the event drew to a close, the crowd stood, clasped hands and sang the song again.
“Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome some day.”