A diverse crowd packed the Student Union Building atrium for the event, sponsored by African American Students Services as a prelude to New Mexico's African American Day.
"Black History Month is not for blacks only," Sharpton said. He said the story of blacks in America is the story of a successful struggle for civil and human rights. "That's why black history is for everybody."
He particularly cited the importance of fighting for the rights of immigrants, women, gays and lesbians, as well as continuing the struggle for African American rights. He said Arizona law goes beyond federal law, making Latin American appearance in itself suspect.
Sharpton also spoke of the need to share the sacrifices necessitated by the recession. "The meltdown was caused by reckless, unchecked greed on Wall Street," he said. City and state workers have taken more than their share of the blame, and proposed retirement reforms and budget cuts in New Mexico would put more than their share of the burden on them, he said.
The core of his message was to look to black history as inspiration to continue the fight for human rights. "If we understand how far we came, we can understand with that same determination how far we can go," he said. "Black history beckons today that we finish the journey for fairness and equality."