For Yamiche Alcindor, everyday is a crazy day. The PBS News Hour White House correspondent and political contributor of channels such as NBC News and MSNBC begins each day around 5 a.m. to unravel the constant stream of breaking news.
From listening to Congressional briefings, reading through the latest headlines, finding personal sources and appearing on national television, Alcindor’s work is infused with a sense of urgency. Despite the urgency of her own personal schedule, the journalist paused to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to reflect on the sense of urgency he embraced to forever change American society.
Alcindor’s address to the Tech community on Jan. 15th — which marked the date of what would have been King’s 91st birthday — served as one of many events hosted on campus to commemorate the legendary figure.
The theme of this ninth annual celebration on campus? The Beloved Community 2020: Activism and the Fierce Urgency of Now.
When King spoke of what he called the “fierce urgency of now” — most notably in his famed “I Have a Dream” speech — he spoke of a unified community not in some distant utopia, but in the current moment.
Recently-inaugurated President Cabrera weighed in on the significance of these words for their insistence on every individual to demand — and to ultimately drive — change.
“Dr. King was the face and the leader,” Cabrera said when speaking about the Civil Rights Movement. “But it took the work of thousands of people to be a part of that movement for it to have an impact. So what that movement drove to me was not just the admiration for the man, it was a reflection of the duty that each of us have to drive change.”
By alluding to King’s statement that “everybody can be great because anybody can serve,” Cabrera reflected on using Tech’s motto of “Progress and Service” as a motivation for the community to drive change.
“Developing the technology, developing the gadget, is great and nice,” said Cabrera. “But if you want to be great, you have to serve. You have to figure out how in the world what you do is going to change the lives of others.”
In aspiring change, Alcindor quoted another King affirmation: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
With references to the impeachment trial and upcoming elections, Alcindor reflected that we still live in “times of challenge of controversy” to this day. She has measured where she stands in these difficult moments by focusing on purpose, truth and justice.
“In my mind, one has to find their purpose, do their best to seek truth and then press forward for justice,” said Alcindor.
Pressing forward, Alcindor admitted, can often times come as a challenge.
“Pushing forward means doing a whole bunch of stuff you might not want to do, but that will bring you closer to your purpose. And never shy away from that.”
Alcindor shared some personal moments from her life that made pushing forward especially difficult.
From working at a McDonald’s to taking a position as a telemarketer, Alcindor’s career was rife with struggles. She nevertheless affirmed that these personal struggles that many face are the very same struggles the nation faces in its ongoing path towards democracy.
“I think that we all need to understand that this path to making America a more perfect union and to pressing forward to democracy might be bumpy and it might have all types of twists and turns,” Alcindor said.
Alcindor’s path — with all of its twists and turns — ultimately led her to pursue journalism. As the daughter of a social worker in Miami, Alcindor witnessed tragedies and disparities from a young age, tragedies and disparities which prompted her to ask pressing questions she has been working on uncovering throughout her career.
“I had my own questions,” Alcindor explained. “I thought they were simple questions, but they are questions I have now spent more than a decade trying to answer.
“I asked why, in my majority black high school, my AP chemistry class was made up of mostly white students. I asked why I had to be bussed from the suburbs into an urban setting to be at a magnet school. Why did some of my dearest friends who were not in those confusing AP chemistry classes watch me fill out applications to colleges but not fill them out themselves? And who in the world was in charge of making these decisions?”
Searching for the answers to these questions led Alcindor to the conclusion that race played a major factor in all of these circumstances even if race was not directly evident on the surface.
“We are doing our jobs in this country and we are asking questions about policy, when a lot of these things go right back to race —right back to what Martin Luther King was working on, right back to what Martin Luther King died for.”
It was while doing her job at the National Association of Black Journalists in our nation’s capital that Alcindor further completed the work King was working on, appropriately meeting her future husband at the foothold of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Alcindor reflected on this personal connection of hers as a continuation of King’s fierce urgency of now that continues to push her and millions more towards a unified community.
“His legacy continues to push us forward. His legacy continues to push us toward love, toward understanding, toward all the greater understanding of this world.”