Martin Luther King Jr’s quest for civil liberties were honored during an MLK Jr. Luncheon held at the Truman Kimbro Dining Facility, Jan. 22. Guest speaker and NMSU Director of Athletics McKinley Boston spoke about the fight for civil liberties that he witnessed growing up and the major role both MLK and Malcolm X played in fighting for equality in civil liberties.
Boston believed that it was the pairing of these two powerful figures, MLK and Malcolm X, who led to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Each made the others voice stronger according to Boston. Boston said it was Malcolm X who no longer centered the civil rights concept on morality but rather created a debate on choices and ideologies. Malcolm X identified the enemy as not one person but the issue of institutional racism as a whole.
“The face of the civil rights movement was very blurred. The voice of Malcolm X made the voice of MLK stronger,” Boston said. “Without Malcolm…I do not believe the 1964 civil rights act would have happened. Our deep seeded perceptions of what is fair could have changed.”
Boston grew up during a time when segregation was the law of the land. He attended High School in the South and received a scholarship to play football in the University of Minnesota. Having grown up in a predominantly segregated part of the country, Boston said he went to Minnesota with a lot of preconceptions. One of the preconceptions that were quickly put to rest, when matched against an Anglo player during practice, was the idea that African-American players were better than Anglo players.
“(I was given) an appreciation for diversity,” Boston said jokingly.
Boston said, for him, the issue of the civil rights movement started to make sense when the concept of a civil rights movement was no longer up for debate. Boston ended his speech by saying that America has grown to be one of the greatest countries in the world mainly due to successful humanitarian efforts that some countries lack. After his speech WSMR Commander Maj. Gen. Gwen Bingham took the time to express how she also experienced segregation having also grown up in the South.
“I would probably not be wearing the 2 stars on my chest had it not been for the teachings of MLK,” Bingham said. “He ignited a fever in this country to say ‘no more’ and to stand up for racial injustices.”
To close the luncheon Bingham presented Boston with a plaque of appreciation for taking the time to talk to the WSMR community.