By Rachel Winter
“This is a very serious issue,” Renford Reese said as he began
the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration. “Some of these issues that
we dealt with in the 1960s, we are still dealing with …
Reese, a political science professor at Cal Poly Pomona, led the
Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration on Wednesday in the
Reese hosted a forum on the Civil Rights Movement, and showed
segments from the documentary “Eyes on the Prize,” which was
followed by a discussion.
During the forum, Reese informed students about the Civil Rights
Movement and posed questions to the attendees.
Reese said the United States’ Constitution actually embraced the
institution of slavery, and although the Constitution is noble and
used as an example around the world, it is flawed.
“If you were slaves right now and you were freed, what would you
do?” said Reese. “Party for maybe 24 hours? What about 72 hours
after? You’re going to wonder what to do about food and then you
had to go to your old owner or someone else’s, and he would give
you 10 percent of land and charge you for it.”
Those in attendance said Reese addressed the subject matter head
“He’s not afraid to put the issues out there,” said Michelle
Eggers, a fifth-year psychology student. “I wish all educators were
Before the documentary started, Reese spoke about the Civil
Rights Movement and asked the crowd if anyone had heard of Emmett
Till or Claudette Colvin ” important individuals in the
Most of the students had not.
The documentary profiled the figures Reese had mentioned, as
well as gave information on the Montgomery Bus Boycott and other
important events of the Civil Rights Movement.
After the documentary, Reese addressed the issue of segregation
still existing in America today.
Reese used the example of Pomona and surrounding areas, saying
if one looks at Pomona, it is mostly a Hispanic population while
Chino Hills is mostly white. Other surrounding cities are either
mostly Asian or African American.
Telling of how he lived in a small town in Georgia, Reese said
even throughout the ’70s, there was still segregation with white
people living on one side of town, and blacks on the other.
“The part of town where I lived was labeled Blacksville on the
map,” said Reese.
The discussion portion of the event compared Martin Luther King,
Jr. and President Obama, as well as a ‘then-and-now’ analysis of
1960 to 2011.
Reese had students and staff in attendance share views on the
differences and similarities of King and Obama, starting with
“King was considered an extremist,” said Reese, adding that King
was not remembered as being civil until decades later.
“These kinds of events are very important,” said Anthony Juarez,
a third-year political science student. “I think everyone needs to
come to these talks.”
Reese said to those in attendance that life is about treating
everyone the same, whether they are the janitor or CEO in a
company, and a person is judged by how they treat people and how
Ending the night with a short poem entitled “One Minute” by
anonymous, Reese left some members of the crowd feeling
“It was amazing, you could feel his passion about the topic,”
said Kathleen Robeniol, a third-year political science student.
“Especially since he’s not required to do this, but he does it
because he loves it.”
Alfonso Villegas / The Poly Post
Revisiting MLK Jr.’s dream
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