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Community gathers for MLK March, to shed light on social issues

To honor Martin Luther King Jr. on what would have been his 90th birthday, hundreds of people marched in Fort Collins, coming together to discuss social justice issues and civil rights.

The 2019 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration started in Old Town Square at 11 a.m. Monday morning. Participants then marched to the Lory Student Center Grand Ballroom to hear keynote speaker Flo King, the principal consultant of Thriving Inclusion. 

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The annual march, hosted by the Fort Collins and Colorado State University community, featured different themes and keynote speakers, all aimed to address, evaluate and deal with social inequalities on campus, in Fort Collins and across America, according to the event website. 

The theme for this year’s march was “Be the Catalyst,” referring to a “social justice catalyst,” someone who inspires change in others and in society without damaging themselves, similar to a catalyst in a chemical reaction.

In the keynote speech, Flo King—who has worked to promote policies of diversity, equity and inclusion since 1993—encouraged those in attendance to help inspire that change through conversation. 

“We’ve got to be willing to have conversations about social justice,” Flo King said. “You can get excited, and you can get angry, but if you become condescending and demeaning, that’s not conversation. That’s going to keep up the tension and we won’t hear each other.”

Mitchell Holston, the coordinator for Student Engagement and Leadership at CSU, discussed strategies to engage in respectful political discussions with people of differing points of view.

“When I think about trying to communicate across (political affiliations), I think it is important to be comfortable with the person you’re talking with. You place labels on each other,” Holston said. “Let’s say somebody who is Black is talking about Black Lives Matter. I see it as my humanity and you see it as a political issue.”

Committing to social justice, taking a position, understanding violence, welcoming feedback from marginalized people and practicing radical self-care are just some of the ways Flo King said someone can “be a catalyst” in their community and help others be aware of pervasive social issues.

“To be a catalyst is to change your environment without running out of energy yourself,” Flo King said.

After attending the keynote speech, CSU sophomore communication studies major Victoria Katsuba said she feels empowered when she meets with others who share a common goal, such as preventing oppression in society.

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“I think events like these are important because the more you talk about it, the more attention you bring to the issues,” Katsuba said.

Flo King also suggested that one way people can start a healthy conversation about political issues is to be aware of all upcoming political events and tune in, whether they align with your personal beliefs or not. Paying attention to the concerns of people who do not share the same political values will help people better understand their reasons for thinking the way they do.

“I’m a true believer of understanding the other side,” Flo King said. “There’s room enough for us to have a conversation with each other.”

Delaney Allen can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @DelaneyAllen0.

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