Singing pierced the air as students, professors and guests marched together, arm in arm, across Auburn’s campus.
On the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., a march was held from Haley Concourse to Langdon Hall on April 4.
There was laughter and smiles between friends as crowds gathered to begin marching. The sun shone overhead, hints of sunset coming.
Aubie bounded down the Concourse joining the growing group, who were preparing to march.
Joan Harrell, visiting professor in journalism, was a major contributor to not only this event, but the ‘Becoming The Beloved Community’ project at Auburn. She worked with Elijah Gaddis, assistant professor of history, and Keith Hebert, assistant professor of history, on the project as well as part of the interdisciplinary project.
The march was one of the events under the ‘Becoming the Beloved Community’ initiative.
“We are trying to bring the campus community together tonight to think about Dr. King’s Legacy and to think about what that legacy means for us moving forward as a campus community,” Gaddis said.
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Students of many races and ethnicities gathered together, walking together, singing together, praying together and laughing together to celebrate King and the legacy that he left.
“For us to be the best community, best school, the best nation that we can possibly be is important for all of us to be inclusive and come together," said Julius Hammond, junior in industrial and systems engineering. "Be that community, that binding force and say that, ‘OK, no matter what comes at Auburn, that we can approach that, whatever it is, together.’”
Harell said the same issues that plagued the 20th century still haunt our country today.
“I know for myself, there has been a lot of times where I don’t feel represented on Auburn University’s Campus," said Monique Cowan, senior in journalism. "Not in just looking around at the people around me but also in the classroom, so I think it’s important that we continue this initiative and not just have it when we see fit.”
Although joyous singing surrounded the marchers for the majority of the walk, the last portion was conducted in silence.
Crowds gathered not only for the march but for the Q&A afterward with Sarah Collins-Rudolph, a survivor of the 16th street church bombing in Birmingham.
Growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, Rudolph faced difficulties that many don’t think about today.
As a black child, she was not allowed to try a pair of shoes on before buying them. Instead, her foot was drawn and compared to the shoes.
“When Martin Luther King came to Birmingham, there was one of [the] meeting places — 16th Street Baptist Church,” Rudolph said. “But I never did think they would put a bomb in the church.”
Rudolph said that particular Sunday was a fun day for her and her friends, knowing they could participate in the youth day. Youth day allowed the children to take on the responsibilities of the adults. Rudough recounted how they played and laughed with each other on the way to the church.
“Never knowing what we were walking into that morning,” Rudolph said.
A bomb hit the side of the church set off by the Ku Klux Klan, killing Rudolph’s sister Addie, as well as three other girls.
“I heard this loud noise, boom, and I didn’t know what it was,” Rudolph said. “It scared me so bad, all I could do was say ‘Jesus, Addie, Addie, Addie,’ but she didn’t answer so I thought maybe they had ran over back into the Sunday school area.”
Rudolph was taken to the hospital, injured, blind in one eye. She eventually had the eye removed for risk of losing her other eye.
“So all I could do was wonder, why did they kill those young girls?” Rudolph said. “You know, I was just at the age of 12. I didn’t understand, why would somebody kill them? They were real sweet girls.”
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The bombing changed Rudolph, she said. She was fearful but eventually had to let go of her hate, her anger and her pain.
Rudolph was baptized and joined a new church and soon became very involved, becoming a devotion leader, singing and more.
“I had to get all of [my anger] out, and I thank God that I did,” Rudolph said.
After Rudolph spoke, there was a candlelight vigil held outside of Langdon. Many prayed, and the chimes of Samford Tower rang at the time of King’s death.
“Auburn is about leadership for the present and the future," Harrell said. "Auburn students have an incredible opportunity to begin to transform the condition of the isms and take, move it to another trajectory, to help eradicate marginalization and other factors in society, which are negative."
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