White House correspondent delivers message of 'moving forward' during community MLK event

Julian Sanders delivers remarks in a black and white photo
Julian Sanders, a junior majoring in political science, serves as emcee for the MLK virtual program. Sanders also performed a spoken word piece.
Image Credit: Valerie Hendrickson

On the same day National Guard troops surrounded the nation's Capitol building following a siege, a White House correspondent gave a message of hope as she reflected on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for PBS Newshour, said King and other civil rights leaders have spoken about discrimination and racism for decades, while providing messages about how to move forward. The time to move forward, Alcindor said, is now.

"King warned us about white supremacists, and that's what we're dealing with now," said Alcindor, the keynote speaker during a Zoom webinar January 18 during the 35th annual West Michigan commemorative program. "These are not microagressions in a boardroom. We are dealing with life and death situations.

"We need to recognize what kind of country we want to be; do we want a country that is just?"

Screenshot of participants during MLK virtual event
Yamiche Alcindor, top row, second from left, and participants of the MLK virtual webinar are pictured.
Image Credit: Elizabeth Lienau

King spoke about the arc of the moral universe bending toward justice. Alcindor said there is collective pressure on the United States to "bend in the right direction." As a journalist, she said she bends the arc by continuing to write stories, taking a cue from the late Congressman John Lewis.

"John Lewis told us to 'get in good trouble.' Journalism is my good trouble," Alcindor said.

She said her first reporting job was at an African American weekly newspaper. "I was just a high school senior who wondered why I was the only person of color in AP chemistry, why I was bused in to school," she said. "I have spent an entire career trying to get answers to those questions."

Alcindor covered the 2020 presidential election and became a go-to voice in analyzing the nation's most critical issues for Democrats and Republicans alike. She has earned multiple awards, including from the White House Correspondents’ Association and National Association of Black Journalists.

Bobby Springer, co-chair of the GVSU MLK committee, gives remarks during the virtual event.
Bobby Springer, co-chair of the GVSU MLK committee, gives remarks during the virtual event.
Image Credit: Valerie Hendrickson

During her address, she relayed an exchange she had with President Trump in 2018 on the campaign trail during the midterm elections. Alcindor asked Trump about labeling himself a nationalist. She told the president that some people interpreted his comment as embracing white nationalists. He called her a racist.

After Trump said that, Alcindor said she regrouped by thinking about her purpose. "I was steadied by the hands of my ancestors from Haiti. I've been told I'm not pretty enough or the right color. And I say, 'Press forward,'" she said.

"We are now gearing up for a second impeachment, while at the same time, learning more about the siege on the Capitol, and we are mourning the millions worldwide who have lost their lives due to COVID-19. Our country is as polarized as ever, we cannot forget that." 

Nearly 1,400 people participated in the webinar. GVSU was the host of the 35th West Michigan community commemoration program, partnering with Grand Rapids Community College, Davenport University and several area businesses and organizations to bring a national speaker to the community.

Other events are planned at Grand Valley through January 26 to honor King's legacy; view the schedule online at gvsu.edu/mlk.