Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy in Oneonta and the nation was discussed Monday at SUNY Oneonta during the third-annual program sponsored by the local chapter of United University Professions.
About 50 people attended the hour-long presentation held on the national holiday celebrating King. The local UUP chapter represents college academic and professional employees.
“We have a lot of work to do,” said Oneonta NAACP President Lee Fisher in discussing King’s efforts to improve racial and social equality and justice in this country. Fisher’s talk followed a short series of film clips taken from King’s speeches.
King’s 1963 March on Washington may have been a starting point in some ways, but “it’s not over,” Fisher said. “We as individuals have to go and get it done.”
The “bridge to equality” that King was seeking to build “is still under construction,” Fisher said, and “we do not yet have the country he helped all of us dream of.” The society can’t advance without sacrifice and risk, and Oneonta is no different, he said.
The local NAACP still receives numerous complaints about such things as racial profiling, housing and discrimination in hiring, Fisher said, and its legal-redress committee is still one of its busiest.
“This wrong must be corrected,” he said. “We have work to do.”
He talked about the notorious “black list,” which Fisher said still cuts deeply for those who experienced it. The incident occurred in 1992, when a college official gave a list of black male students to police investigating a burglary, setting off years of controversy resulting in litigation.
“But that was then,” Fisher said. “This is now.” He thanked SUNY Oneonta President Nancy Kleniewski, who was in attendance, for helping to calm tensions from that issue.
“We need to embrace that situation and move on — make it better, not bitter,” Fisher said. When it comes to issues like voting rights, immigration and affirmative action, it should be “simple” to resolve. “We need to come together and get it done.”
Robert Compton, vice president for academics of the local UUP and chairman of the college’s department of Africana and Latino Studies, said “we are committed to issues of social justice,” in explaining the group’s sponsorship of the event. Even though many offices were closed for the holiday, Compton said he was pleased the turnout was more than expected.
One of the the students in attendance was Jamile Ennabi, a senior majoring in music industry with a minor in urban studies. She said she’s been very involved in Africana and Latino studies on campus. With a mother who is Mexican and father who is Honduran and Jordanian, “it’s important to me,” she said.
The work of King has done a lot for the country, she said, and without him, she and others she knows might not have the opportunity to study at SUNY Oneonta. She said she was glad she attended the event and was glad to see so many there.
Area residents Victoria Andritz and Robert Rightmire were also in attendance. When they learned the event was occurring on the holiday, they felt it was important to attend, Rightmire said, adding: “The struggle continues.”