Anjimile Chithambo, AMD’16, per­forms an acoustic ver­sion of “Wake Me Up” by Avicii at the Martin Luther King Jr. Con­vo­ca­tion in January.

Anjimile Chithambo, AMD’16, per­forms an acoustic ver­sion of “Wake Me Up” by Avicii at the Martin Luther King Jr. Con­vo­ca­tion in January.

The most meaningful celebrations of historical milestones shed light on where society has to go, rather than just on where it’s been. Bob Moses offered that kind of illumination in January as the focal point of the “A Tribute to the Dream” event, the university’s celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.

According to Moses, a contemporary of Dr. King’s and pioneer of the voter registration drive in Mississippi in the early 1960s, the unfinished business of the civil rights movement is educational opportunity.

“We didn’t get Jim Crow out of education,” said Moses, founder and president of the Algebra Project, a nonprofit that uses math as a tool to improve public school learning across the country.

Moses pointed out that poor academic performance should be a matter of grave concern for all Americans. School failure is an issue of class rather than race, he said, threatening to doom the bottom 25 percent of our students to a future as “serfs of the Information Age.”

“The country needs to decide that our children are worth educating,” he said.  “There should be a constitutional right to a quality education.”

Moses offered his perspective in a Q&A format with Boston television news anchor and reporter Pamela Cross. The conversation grew particularly riveting when he talked about his experiences at the center of Mississippi’s voter registration campaign in 1964, serving as field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Dubbed Freedom Summer, it was a time of extreme violence—and extreme hope.

“I learned how to live a life of struggle,” Moses told a standing-room-only crowd at the Curry Student Center Ballroom.

“I was based in a community I could disappear in,” he said. “Day or night, I could knock on a door and someone would give me a bed to sleep in and food to eat. I lived with a network of people who had my back and showed me how to live in Mississippi.”

The event was organized as part of Northeastern’s yearlong commemoration of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, “50 Years Forward.” It also paid homage to two anniversaries: the 45th year of the John D. O’Bryant African American Institute and the 40th year of the African American studies department.