The Challenge: To Make Change

Photo credit: Janet Rogers, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications

TAASU Freedom Breakfast observes civil rights movement

Accept the challenge to participate in a movement that brings about change. That was one of the key messages delivered to a University of Missouri-Kansas City audience at the 25th annual Freedom Breakfast, sponsored by The African American Student Union (TAASU). The event commemorates the1963 March on Washington during the American civil rights movement.

Clarence Lang Jr., Ph.D., associate professor of African and African American Studies at the University of Kansas, delivered the keynote message at the Jan. 21 event. As the country celebrates the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. right now, Lang said there’s always opportunity to get involved.

Observing King’s birthday is one way to get engaged. Lang said King’s birthday is also an opportunity to move forward. Although civil rights problems still exist, Lang said we approach them differently today. He commended those who peacefully demonstrated and spoke out over recent events in the hopes of bringing about bigger change. Too often, Lang said King gets frozen in time with the “I Have a Dream” speech.

“We forget about the Dr. King who promoted social justice,” he said. The civil rights movement was, and still is, broader than one issue. He said it’s about the right to accessible health care, the right to vote, and the right to jobs and affordable housing. Ultimately, Lang said, it’s about human dignity.

“Social change is the work of ordinary people who rise to the occasion in extraordinary times,” Lang said.

Before breakfast concluded, Lang recommended three things to the students. This first was to build a shared vision of what we are for, not what we are against. The second was to think of concrete goals so everyone can work together. The third was to build broad networks across campus. Lang said King became a leader because he was recruited by well-known activists. He accepted the challenge to get involved.

“That’s how movements are built,” Lang said.

To end the celebration, TAASU awarded Mel Tyler, University of Missouri-Kansas City vice chancellor for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, the 2015 Dr. Joseph Seabrooks, Jr. Leadership Award. The award is given annually by the TAASU board to recognize a university staff or faculty member for mentorship, leadership and service.

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