News and Tribune

January 15, 2014

Step up for equality: MLK event in New Albany evokes action

NA-FC Schools, Teacher Association event highlights unfinished work in civil rights movement

By JEROD CLAPP
jerod.clapp@newsandtribune.com

NEW ALBANY — It’s not over and it may never be, but Gloria Murray said involvement is simple as a little forward movement.

Murray, the dean of the School of Education at Indiana University Southeast, was the keynote speaker for the 19th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Dinner on Tuesday. At the event — held by the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. and the district’s Teachers Association at Northside Christian Church — she said even though King helped the movement along more than 50 years ago, there’s still plenty of work to complete.

“Some people might wonder, do we need another speech about the civil rights movement? The answer is yes, definitely yes,” Murray said. “If you did not know this, public speaking has always been a powerful tool in the civil rights movement. It’s always been a powerful tool in forming of this country.”Murray said there are still battles for people all over the country and the world to make sure they’re all on equal footing with their peers. But to effect that change, good citizens need to take a first step at making it happen.

“The good citizen on the civil rights journey understands that everything hangs on the first step,” Murray said. “It is not enough to know, you have to begin. Some people are unable to take the first step because of action anxiety. Anxiety can freeze you, so you refuse to act.”

She said that anxiety is often caused by negative fantasies or overthinking consequences. But she said consequences are also present when nothing is done.

She pointed out the United States Supreme Court’s ruling on a key component of the Shelby County v. Holder case last summer. In the voting rights act of 1965, Section 5 requires states and local governments with histories of discrimination to seek approval of voting law changes at the federal level.

That practice was voted as unconstitutional in a 5-4 vote.

She said making sure people of all races have equal access to the polls is important, but it’s not just about race. Other demographics also need protection from discrimination.

“The goal is clear for the civil rights journey, civil rights for all citizens and elimination of discrimination based on race, gender, disabilities, sexual orientation religion and any other protected class goes here,” Murray said. “So the first characteristic of a citizen in the civil rights movement is to begin.”One such good citizen for civil rights was recognized at the event. Nicole Yates, president of the New Albany Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and scheduler for Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, received 2014’s Anna Kathryn Hickerson Diversity Award.

Yates said her involvement with the NAACP began with Hickerson, who took the role of a mother figure in her life, when she asked her to come to a meeting with her.

From there, she said she couldn’t pull herself away.

“A lot of you know I’m passionate about a lot of things, food, jewelry and shoes,” Yates said. “But I’m also very compassionate and passionate about my community, and I really had no idea that in life, this is what I would do and that I would want to give back, but I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

She said the action of taking the first step, or any step in furthering civil rights, doesn’t have to involve a huge financial donation. Instead, she said anything anyone can give is a step toward equality for everyone.

“All of you who here tonight are keepers of the dream,” Yates said. “I just encourage you to be a good humanitarian like Kathryn, a good person by doing whatever you can. Don’t measure what you give by someone else, you give what you can. Because when you give what you can, you’re giving it your all.”