Shreveport native helps establish Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day as holiday on college campus

“They weren’t really letting students or faculty celebrate the holiday”

Shreveport native helps establish Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day as holiday on college campus
Whittier College students gather in January 2020 in support of establishing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day as an official holiday on the campus. (Source: Journee Bradford)

SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — Journee Bradford carried her leadership skills with her from C.E. Byrd High School in Shreveport to Whittier College in Los Angeles.

As president of the college’s Black Student Association at that time, she immediately took initiative when she realized the institution did not recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day as an official holiday.

“They weren’t really letting students or faculty celebrate the holiday.”

With fewer than 5% of its students identifying as Black, Bradford said many of them — including herself — yearned for community. “At that time, especially Black students, they didn’t feel like they had a voice.”

Shreveport native helps re-establish MLK Day observance on her college campus

When Los Angeles native Linda Oubré was named president of Whittier College, Bradford said it made her efforts a lot easier. “It’s good to have a college president who listens to her students and wants to see change.”

Their efforts inspired billionaire MacKenzie Scott to donate $12 million to the college.

Bradford said she got mixed feedback. Some disagreed with her efforts, saying it would take away from class time; while others applauded her.

“’We used to have Black history programs; but once [a certain] president came in, things changed,’” Bradford said, quoting some of the feedback she received.

For the first time in years, Monday will mark the first MLK Day observed by the college. And César Chávez Day will be observed in March.

“It just shows that my work wasn’t in vain,” Bradford said.

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