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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.

You can’t change the world from your couch

By Clayton Norlen

Don’t assume that because we have a week to commemorate the life and struggle of Martin Luther King Jr., the fight he once led has been won. The fight for equality in America is still here today and is as desperate for help as it was then.

Starting on Tuesday is the 23rd annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at the U, featuring keynote speaker Angela Davis along with other speakers, panel discussions and service projects.

On the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Week, I think it’s important to look at what we as a nation are doing to further the fight King once led. In the First Amendment, Americans are guaranteed the right to freedom of speech, but more often than not, we opt to not use our voices when they are needed the most.

In her autobiography (Angela Davis: An Autobiography), Davis summarizes how all Americans should feel when we let our voices fall silent.

“Nothing in the world made me angrier than inaction, than silence. The refusal or inability to do something, say something when a thing needed doing or saying was unbearable. The watchers, the head-shakers, the back-turners made my skin prickle.”

We have become used to watching the news, sitting on our couches and saying, “Oh God,” then waiting for another 30- second clip to shock or calm us. We are so distanced from reality now that instead of turning our backs or shaking our heads, we change the channel and see what’s happening on “The Real World.”

As Americans, we have forgotten our rights to speak for ourselves and band together with likeminded individuals to fight peacefully for the better world King saw so clearly in his dream. We are content to leave those battles to the politicians that only a handful of us turn out to elect and the few political activists that fight for change, while we watch the results on the 10 p.m. news.

Historically, this hasn’t been the nature of our country-a nation rich with political activity on the part of the people. During the ’60s and ’70s, the idea of “going outside” and fighting for what people saw as right was as normal in some circles as spending two hours alone on your computer updating your Top Eight on MySpace is today.

Instead of thinking only of online communities and what time “Survivor” was going to be on, the socially conscious youth of past decades picked up the banners and flags of their causes and marched through the streets to tell those in power what they were doing right, what they were doing wrong and how to fix it.

Throughout the upcoming days, we as U students will have the opportunity to attend numerous events, speeches and discussions that could open our eyes to the world around us. It’s the first week of school, so there isn’t the excuse of homework or tests for students. And some events are in the evening, so work isn’t as big an issue.

For your time, you’ll leave these events knowing how you can better serve the community, nation and world you’re a part of.

Here is a breakdown so everyone will know the times, locations and topics; this way you can’t blame the marketing because you didn’t know when everything was going on:

Jan. 9

“Treading Water,” a panel discussion from U professors, will cover equality, voting rights, LGBT issues and immigration (Union Ballroom at noon).

Eisa Davis and U student accompaniment will perform “Angela’s Mixtape,” a musical tribute from Eisa about growing up in Berkeley, Calif. with her aunt, Angela Davis (Union Ballroom at 7 p.m.).

Jan. 10

Angela Davis gives her keynote address. Davis is a tenured professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and has been politically active since her youth in Birmingham. For 16 months, starting in 1970, Davis was held as a political prisoner on false charges until her acquittal in 1972 (Union Ballroom at noon).

Jan. 12

The president of Spelman College, Beverly Daniel Tatum, will give a lecture on contemporary issues of race relations in the United States (Union Saltair room at 3 p.m.).

A screening of the documentary American Blackout will be followed with a discussion with the director, Ian Inba (Union Theater at 7 p.m.).

On KUED’s “Utah Now,” Doug Fabrizio will interview Angela Davis. (Channel 7 at 8:30 p.m. or at

Jan. 13

The health fair “Diabetes Awareness” will provide information, screenings and referrals (The Northwest Multipurpose Center (1300 W. 300 South), 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.).

Jan. 15

Goaple, a socially and politically active singer/songwriter whose music has been inspired by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley and hip-hop artists of today, will perform. Tickets are free to the public and available through Kingsbury Hall (Libby Gardner Hall at 6:30 p.m.).

Following Gaople’s performance at Libby Gardner Hall is the MLK youth leadership awards for students in grades 7 through 12. These awards are given to the youth of today that are getting off their couches, logging out of MySpace and making the world a better place through their dedication to social activism.

Take the opportunity this week to attend an event. Who knows, maybe you’ll leave one with a better understanding of how to make this nation what it has always claimed to be: a land of equality for all.

The upcoming week and celebration is here to remind us of our continuing struggle to secure the civil rights of everyone, not just a select few.

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