COLORADO SPRINGS — The celebrations of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. rang louder on Monday, even if they were heard through a computer.
For many, like the event honoring Dr. King’s legacy put on by the Pikes Peak Diversity Council and Colorado College, celebrations were held virtually. At Colorado College, a day of events and discussion about the civil rights movement he led, how it compares to today, where racism stands in today’s culture, and a keynote address given by Cornell Banks, the former president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and current professor at the Harvard Kennedy School.
“This Martin Luther King day is morally and temporally situated between an inauguration and an insurrection. It is an extraordinary moment,” Brooks said. “We celebrate this day with an unanswered question hanging in the air: Where do we go from here? Chaos or Community>”
Even before January 6th insurrection, which included groups vocal about their calls for white supremacy, Dr King’s actions and words loomed over the past year.
Following George Floyd was killed by an officer’s knee to his neck, Breonna Taylor being shot eight times and killed in her sleep during a raid with a faulty search warrant, and Ahmaud Arbery was chased, hunted, and killed by two white men while on a jog, calls to root out the remaining pockets of racism in America echoed through the streets of countless American cities, including Colorado Springs.
“This day has always been a day of reflection, of making sure I am fully committed to the work of justice and righteousness,” said Dr. Stephany Rose Spaulding, a professor and director of the Womens and Ethnic Studies program at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.”I felt for the first time that we are breaking ground to actually get to root out the cancer that is racism.”
The demonstrations that had sparked since the summer have given Rose Spaulding hope, but the disparity in the response to how Black Lives Matter supporters were met by the National Gaurd and Capitol Police in Washington D.C. versus the supporters of President Donald Trump shows her the stark difference in how people of color are treated versus those who are white.
With the rampant amount of white supremacists symbols and language used among the insurrectionists, she believes Dr. King would have been heart broken to see it.
“We are watching and literally seeing how far we have not come in terms of racial equity in this society,” Rose Spaulding said. “Now is not the time to slumber back into sleep and wake up and live this dream that we often mythologize about the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King.”
Rose Spaulding does think that some areas of progress, including Barak Obama’s election to the presidency do show that, despite the work she says is still needed, there have been advancements in how Black and Brown Americans have been viewed and treated.
She’s hopeful in where demonstrations have pushed the conversation.
“[People] still see the need to come out and express that they want more and they want better for their country and for their city,” said Danielle Summerville.
Summerville was hired in September to be the city of Colorado Springs’ community, diversity and outreach programs manager. Her work aims to bridge the gap and build relationships in the Black and Brown communities in the city in order to find what is working, what isn’t, what people living in those areas, particularly the southeast area, and to engage in a regular conversations about it.
She was part of the Pikes Peak Diversity Council’s event in a break out session called “Fact-Finding on Diversity in Colorado Springs.”
“We want to make sure that Colorado Springs is responsive to a diverse community and what those needs are culturally, educationally, and so forth,” Summerville said.
Summerville is working on having similar discussions with different groups of people in the city and will eventually accumulate what she has found.