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Students At Paul Quinn Plan For The Future By Looking Back In Time

They weren’t even born when Martin Luther King capped the March on Washington with his famous speech. Students at Paul Quinn College remembered that day in 1963 with a celebration of their own Wednesday.

Students singing the anthem "Wading in the Water" at Wednesday's event were playing the role of the Freedom Riders, 1960s activists who refused to stand for segregation on public buses.

It was just one stop on Paul Quinn College’s tour of African American history. It started with slavery and ended with a dozen young men in hooded sweatshirts chanting “We are Trayvon Martin.”

But there was a lot in between, too. Anita Crethers, 22, was particularly moved by a scene that showed Emmett Till’s grief stricken mother rocking her child’s lifeless body.

Credit Courtney Collins / KERA News
Anita and her 5 year-old son Tyrone who was the youngest participant in the Trayvon Martin reenactment.

Crethers is a mother herself and wrote an original piece of poetry for Wednesday’s event.

“I too have a dream, that great people like Martin Luther King did not sacrifice their lives so we could opt out, give up, be refused or rejected our dreams,” Crethers recited.

The students planned Wednesday’s celebration. 23 year-old Donta Braxton says studying what happened in 1963 is a good way to shape hope for the future. “I look back at the March on Washington and listening to the prophetic words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it puts me in a state of I wish I was there to see what it was back then and how it’s relating to what’s going on now,” says Braxton.

The students admit there’s a lot of work to be done if Dr. King’s dream is to be fully realized.

“It is our job to continue that journey until it is finished. And after we’re done, we pass it on to our children,” Crethers says. “But if we let the ball drop, how will the game ever be finished?”

It’s a tough question, but these students say a look at where we’ve been might point us in the right direction. 

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.