GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Several events in West Michigan honoring the life of Martin Luther King Jr. were moved online this year due to the pandemic.

Western Michigan University-Cooley Law School’s Grand Rapids Campus’ Black Law Students Association hosted virtual panel called “Controversy in the Community” to mark MLK Day. A number of law professionals shared their thoughts on King’s work and how it applies to some of the issues our country is dealing with today, notable the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

“The example I use sometimes is how we’ve been conditioned to racism. When hockey players fight, nobody seems to mind, it’s just boys being boys. If it’s Black basketball players or football players, it’s violence, they’re inherently violent. That’s the nature of what has happened in this country,” panelist Stephen Drew, a Grand Rapids attorney, said. “We all have to overcome that type of thing, including ourselves. I’m hopeful this is going to be a wakeup call for America to see how dangerous it is to see what happened. And in some ways, you’re never glad of this, but if it did wake some up, if corporate America is now not going to back this type of thing that’s been a big lie for four years, then maybe some good will come of it and we will live what Martin Luther King said and we will be able to live together. I’m hopeful.”

On Monday evening, Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids Community College and Davenport University teamed up for a presentation entitled “The Legacy of MLK: Purpose, Truth and Justice,” which featured keynote speaker PBS NewsHour and NBC and MSNBC political contributor Yamiche Alcindor.  

Alcindor spoke of covering the battle for social justice this year and the recent raid by far-right extremist groups on the U.S. Capitol. 

“I’m especially grateful to speak to you and to speak to your students and your faculty members as we all are really wondering what is going on in our country and also on a day like today where we’re all wondering what would Martin Luther King Jr. have said,” Alcindor said. 

Alcindor says the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 shows the danger facing our country and highlights the need to not give in to systemic racism.  

“What we’re dealing with right now is life and death situations. Know this period is really forcing us to look at the virus of white supremacy coursing through every aspect of our nation and making us recon with what kind of country we want to be,” Alcindor said. 

The journalist looked back to the 1960s and how King’s words still resonate today. 

“King said: History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people but the appalling silence of the good people,” Alcindor said. 

Also, Alcindor sent a message to many people who quote him yet deter justice and do not understand who he was by referencing words shared by King’s daughter Bernice King. 

“Let’s remember in this Martin Luther King Day not to romanticize who Martin Luther King was — someone who wanted radical change, who made people uncomfortable, who was arrested, who was assonated.” 

Other virtual events in West Michigan included the Urban League of West Michigan’s annual breakfast celebration to honor King, which sold out. Additionally, Calvin University’s January Series welcomed author and speaker Jemar Tisby for a speech entitled “What is the Color of Compromise.”

Celebration Cinema hosted showings of “One Night in Miami” at all its theaters and “MLK/FBI” at its Studio Park theater only. A portion of ticket sales will go to The Center for Community Transformation. There was an online discussion about “One Night in Miami” on Monday evening and there will be another one about “MLK/FBI” on Sunday.