Martin Luther King Jr. was a citizen of the world who dreamed of a society of equality and justice that paid no heed to skin color, said Tuskegee, Ala., Mayor Johnny Ford at a luncheon observance of the slain civil-rights leader's birthday.
Meanwhile, Salt Lake Community College called off civil-rights observances Monday after Alberta Henry, president of the Salt Lake NAACP, refused an invitation in protest of the school's decision to remain open on King's birthday."It's appalling that in a community with such a mix of people that the college would remain open, especially when they celebrate other holidays such as a deer hunt," she said. "I hardly think their heart was in the right place anyway. They asked me last week to speak. It was a last-minute gesture, and it didn't give me much time to prepare."
At the luncheon, Ford said that though King is dead, his dream can become a reality if "we arise and cross over the rivers of despair and bigotry toward a world of peace and harmony.
"Rev. King did not have a chance to go over. Moses didn't. And Brigham Young probably didn't. But we have a chance to go over that river," the mayor told the luncheon sponsored by the Salt Lake Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Ford, who has served since 1972 as Tuskegee's mayor, told of a childhood experience when he found himself "peeping through the fence at a swimming pool where white kids were splashing and enjoying themselves in the water."
The building had a plaque on it with the mayor's name, and he said he remembered thinking, "That mayor must be a real powerful man to keep us out . . . "
Little did he know that in a few decades he would be the mayor in a position to open those swimming pool doors for all children, regardless of color.
Salt Lake Community College officials said they will alternate President's Day with Human Rights Day so that every other year the school will be closed on King's birthday, said SLCC spokesman Jay Williams.