Soka Celebrates the Life of Civil Rights Icon Martin Luther King Jr.

February 16, 2023
Black and white photo of Martin Luther King Jr.

SUA celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. with a week-long celebration that began on January 16, the national holiday in his honor. The week included four events, each highlighting different aspects of Dr. King’s life and allowing participants to reaffirm their commitment to continue his work of affirming the dignity of every life.

Volunteering at the OC Food Bank

SUA students pose at a food bank

Students, faculty, and staff celebrated the MLK Day of Service on Jan. 16 by volunteering to assemble and pack food for distribution to low-income children, families, seniors, and veterans in Orange County and surrounding areas. “On MLK Day, I joined volunteers from the school and all over OC to go to the OC Food Bank,” said Sakura Okayasu ’24. “It was a wonderful experience to be able to work with my friends to pack boxes of food that were sent out to members of the community who needed them. It was also fun to see how fast we could work together as one unit.”

Two students wearing hats shake hands

“Out of the Mountain of Despair, a Stone of Hope”: A Conversation with Reverend Dr. Reginald E. Bachus

Reverend Dr. Reginald E. Bachus poses with SUA Faculty and students

On Jan. 17, Reverend Dr. Reginald E. Bachus, pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Chicago and exemplar of Dr. King’s ethos, shared his experiences of applying Dr. King’s principles of non-violence through dialogue. He highlighted his lifelong pursuit of expanding hope and building a coalition to find solutions for the biggest challenges facing his community in Chicago.

Reverend Bachus spoke about his experience in community building with Austin Coming Together, which includes more than 100 religious organizations with the shared purpose of improving conditions for the neighborhood of Austin on the west side of Chicago. Hundreds of volunteers stood on troubled street corners to provide a safe and crime-free environment for the community on Wednesday nights.

In one case, his patience and deep care for the community members transformed a hostile dynamic with gang members who initially threatened to come to church and confront him for standing on the same corners that they typically occupied. However, they responded to Dr. Bachus’ kindness and character—his spirit to see them as human—which resulted in a bond of friendship.

Selma Film Screening

Screengrab from the film, Selma showing black and white photo of the 1965 march for voting rights from Selma to Montgomery

Selma, screened at SUA on Jan. 19, commemorates the historical events of the 1965 march for voting rights from Selma to Montgomery led by Dr. King. The movie helped students understand the compassion of Dr. King and the brutality of the authorities. After watching the film, Khurshid Engineer ’26 said the movie “displayed the severe brutality taking place in Selma and highlighted how vicious the police and the administration were toward their Black citizens, particularly the protestors.”

The screening was followed by a dinner with small group discussions about the movie, the civil rights movement, and Dr. King. “From the dialogue I had with my friends after the movie, I was reassured of the importance of self-reflecting on my implicit bias every day and striving to be a good friend and family member,” said SUA graduate student Takumi Sampei ‘24.

Discussing the “Three Evils of Society”

A group of people sit at a table and talk

The Soka campus community concluded the week on Jan. 20 by studying Dr. King’s speech “The Three Evils of Society,” which he delivered at the National Conference on New Politics in 1967. Participants discussed the relevance of Dr. King’s message to the enduring American challenges of racism, materialism, and militarism.

Gail Thomas, professor emerita of sociology, shared her experience during the civil rights movement, underscoring the importance of understanding Christianity to comprehend the allegories in Dr. King’s speeches and actions, as his life and work were deeply informed by his Christian faith. “It was such an insightful meeting not just to learn and hear directly from Dr. King, but also to have a wonderful space to engage in a dialogue with peers on these important topics,” said Yuya Uchida, manager of overseas development at SUA.