Although there were no strains of “We Shall Overcome” heard on the Jepson Quad, there was plenty of quiet contemplation as more than 100 members of the University of Richmond community marched across campus to attend a gathering at Cannon Memorial Chapel in commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Some carried placards bearing messages of the civil rights work that remains to be done today.

Tajh Ferguson, ’10, of the Multicultural Student Union, which organized the procession, urged those gathered to, “Think about what Dr. King’s dream means to you,” as they marched to the chapel.

Joining the procession was former Virginia Gov. and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine, who returned to teaching at Richmond this semester. For Kaine, King’s dream lives on in his work to foster economic justice, an issue King also addressed.

“Today there is less separation than there are differences in economic opportunities,” Kaine said. “[As governor] I tried hard with my team to address many of those issues, but what we accomplished was just a drop in the bucket. There is still a lot of work to be done.”

Examining “The Freedom Struggle Today,” and thinking about ways to continue King’s legacy, was the theme of the gathering, which attracted a standing-room-only crowd of more than 700 people. Dr. Oliver W. Hill Jr. presented the keynote address.

Hill, professor and chair of the psychology department at Virginia Union University, is the son of the late civil rights lawyer Oliver W. Hill Sr., one of the attorneys who argued the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education case before the Supreme Court in 1954. The University’s Oliver Hill Scholars program is named for him. University President Dr. Edward L. Ayers pointed out that the first group of Oliver Hill scholars will graduate this spring, embodying “what is best about the University of Richmond.”

Hill said he believes the three most important civil rights issues of our day are: ensuring a quality education for all, reforming the criminal justice system, and ending discrimination based on sexual preference.

“One of the characteristics that is most needed in the new generation of leaders is they can’t see the opposition as the ‘other,’” he said. “They have to have the sense that we’re all in this together.”

Hill praised the University for its commitment to creating leaders in the social justice movement through programs such as Common Ground and the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement. “I think that’s what it’s going to take for the next generation,” he said.

The University’s Umoja Gospel Choir and a capella group Choeur du Roi provided music, and Ngoma African Dance Company ended the program with a recessional dance. Members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., the first nationally chartered African-American fraternity at Richmond, provided student reflections on the civil rights movement. They noted that King was a member of the same fraternity.

Glyn Hughes, director of Common Ground, the event’s sponsor, says MLK Day offers the University the opportunity to reflect on King’s legacy as a community. “We can reflect on what are the challenges that remain,” he said, “and how we are all individually responsible to continue to make progress.”