Letter from Chancellor Robinson – MLK Day 2021
Dear Ram Family,
On Monday, January 18, Winston-Salem State University, along with others across the nation, will celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – as we have done for over thirty years. Dr. King is an iconic representation of what it means to remain peaceful and steadfast in the face of adversity. His birthday reminds us of the importance of togetherness and service to others. However, this year I believe Martin Luther King Jr. Day holds an even richer meaning.
As MLK Day 2021 approaches just two days before a historic presidential inauguration - amidst civil unrest and a national healthcare crisis in our country, I am reminded of one of Dr. King’s famous quotes: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Dr. King knew all too well that it takes a shared effort to truly overcome obstacles. During his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech, he suggests that freedom for some is inextricably linked to the freedom of everyone.
This is the same sentiment expressed by Dr. Simon Green Atkins when he founded Winston-Salem State over seventy years before Dr. King’s March on Washington. After 128 years of existence, this university remains dedicated to social justice advocacy and the core values that established this great institution. We are not silent about our commitment to equity and the principles that uphold the value and dignity of our community, nation, and friends around the world.
This past year, WSSU’s Justice Studies’ faculty and students championed for the exoneration of Ronnie Long, who spent over 40 years in prison after being wrongly convicted in 1976. Last October, over a thousand WSSU students marched to the early voting site to exercise their right to vote and encourage their community to do the same. Last February, WSSU, along with our friends at Wake Forest University, commemorated the 60th anniversary of the Winston-Salem sit-in, where students from both universities partnered to desegregate lunch counters in the city.
Events such as these remind me that we are continuing to lay the proper foundation that equips and positions our students, faculty, and staff as front-runners for equality. Their outspokenness on social issues and their determination will impact generations to come because like Dr. King, we do not stand silently on the sidelines.
As we celebrate MLK Day, let us remember that we must remain focused on what matters – freedom and equality for all. As Dr. King said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Let us continue to be motivated by his words and strive to build better communities for ourselves and the people around us.
Elwood L. Robinson, Ph.D.