By Christina Calloway
PNT senior writer
Nine-year-old Jadyn McAnarney said in preparing for Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, she learned a lot about the civil rights leader in her class.
McAnarney learned facts such as King’s family history and that his mother was a musician, but what stuck out to her the most was that from her readings was that “He changed the world.”
“He changed the way we live,” McAnarney said.
McAnarney was one of hundreds present at Eastern New Mexico University and Portales Cultural Affairs’ Martin Luther King Jr. Day program “Celebration of His Dream” on Monday in the Campus Union Ballroom. The event followed the march, symbolizing that of King’s historic civil rights March on Washington in 1963.
McAnarney was one of few selected to ask ENMU President Steven Gamble a question based on what she and her classmates learned about the civil rights pioneer.
McAnarney boldly walked up to the microphone Monday night and asked Gamble how did white people who did not support civil rights learn to work with African-Americans after segregation ended.
“Things got to change because we got to know each other,” Gamble told McAnarney and her classmates. “It’s the children, it’s the kids here in the front row that have changed the most.”
Gamble addressed the questions of the children at the tail-end of a panel discussion, in which panelists discussed freedom and equality and America’s progress toward reaching King’s goals.
Panelist Chester Haughawaut, retired ENMU vice president of planning and analysis, talked about social media today and how it cuts into human interaction, which can hinder King’s dream.
“The interaction, aside from the age gap, is disappointing,” Haughawaut said.
Through social media providing several channels of communication, Haughawaut said, “We don’t care if we’re telling the truth or not. Back in the day, you tried to avoid deceiving people.”
Panelist ENMU student Halle Pittman with the African-American Affairs office talked about race always being an issue, but with continual change, America can move toward King’s dream.
“(Race relations) have matured into something tolerable, but race will always be an issue,” Pittman said. “We have to change our insight and thoughts.”
Elaine Nettles, a school bus driver from Portales, said it was important for her daughter to experience Monday’s program because it’s a part of history. She wants her 11-year-old daughter to understand how much has changed.
“All of us are in the same room together, we’re not segregated anymore,” Nettles said.
Nettles said her daughter is lucky to have friends of different backgrounds and though she may never give it a second thought, racism may have kept her from playing with the friends she has today.
ENMU senior Cornelius Cammock of Austin, Texas, said despite growing up in the once racially segregated South, he has personally not experienced being treated differently because he is black.
In that sense, he feels race relations in America have come a long way but he knows outside of his experience, things can be better.
“Everybody should think positive about things,” said the sports management major. “We just have to try and get along.”