NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Martin Luther King Jr. used his eloquent words and impassioned voice to call for equality - including equality in the arena of higher education.
More than five decades since the Civil Rights Movement Leader's death, people such as Tiana Rahi, a junior studying for her marketing degree at Rutgers Business School, can still hear that call.
Rahi's is the story of how the daughter of immigrants from Lebanon who grew up in nearby Highland Park is helping plan one of the most thoughtful and reverent Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations in the heart of the city.
Rahi, a member of the Bonner Leader Program which is committed to service at Rutgers and beyond, has partnered with Unity Square Community Center for an afternoon of activities on Monday, Jan. 20.
The programming will be unique because it will also incorporate the activism of one of New Brunswick's favorite sons, Paul Robeson.
"Martin Luther King Jr. and Paul Robeson: Continuing Their Legacy" will be an open house event held at Unity Square at 81 Remsen Ave. from 1-4 p.m.
Unity Center will be alive with free activities for adults, students and children. Many of them will be interactive, such as digital MLK and Robeson informational exhibits that are accessed with QR Codes and available in English and Spanish.
And to honor the man who once famously and defiantly declared, "I have a dream," there will be a journal-making station for students so they can begin writing down their own dreams for the world, their community, themselves.
There will be a step show presented by the Iota Phi Theta fraternity, a community canvas mural painting project to help complete and a button-making station. And since Martin Luther King Jr. Day is recognized as a day of service, there will be an area for attendees to write letters directly addressed to detained immigrants and asylum seekers.
The theme of the day's programming - "How do we continue Martin Luther King Jr. and Paul Robeson's legacy?" - is something that Rahi has often considered, especially when it comes to MLK.
"I think his dream for the world kind resonates with everyone, no matter what walk of life," she said. "Even thought it wasn't particularly the Civil Rights Movement, I think as the daughter of immigrants trying to find my way through higher education - just the idea that we have a dream and we can go out and do whatever we put our minds to. I think that's my takeaway from this event."
Robeson's legacy was celebrated the past few years in New Brunswick and across Rutgers. The city renamed a major thoroughfare in his name and Rutgers dedicated an open-air plaza to his accomplishments in the classroom, on the gridiron, in the courthouse, on the stage and on the world stage.
Considering Robeson once berated President Harry S. Truman over lynchings during a face-to-face meeting at the White House, it was natural to connect him to the day's festivities, said Amy Michael, the associate director of the Collaborative Center for Community-Based Research and Service in Rutgers' Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
"We thought about in terms of, 'What is MLK's for equality and social justice.' And those are also ideals that Paul Robeson embodied," Michael said. "I'm here at Rutgers and we want to continue his legacy. They had a celebration of the 100 years (since his graduation from Rutgers) last year. But it shouldn't just be that milestone. It should be how we think equality every day."