The main takeaways from MLK Day

CNU community gathers to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with speakers, procession

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

These are the words of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

On Monday, Jan. 21, campus community members and Newport News community members gathered in Gaines Theater to hold a commemoration for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The theme of this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemoration was “Moving with Vision, Courage and Compassion in this Critical Hour.” The theme was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.’s words to Virginia leaders in 1958 as protests were beginning in response to a few white public schools who decided to close instead of integrate. 

Vidal Dickerson, Special Assistant to the Vice President of Student Affairs for Diversity and Inclusion, mentioned during his opening remarks that the focus of this commemoration was being placed on the call to action.

“This is a day of great ideas and great movements, and so when we think about movements particularly, where does vision and courage actually sit in our pursuit? In this critical hour, particularly in our day when we’re easily segregated and disconnected by identities and philosophies, where does compassion and grace live within that?” Dickerson said.

After Dickerson, President Paul Trible reflected and also gave some opening remarks about Martin Luther King Jr. Day at CNU.

President Trible spoke of Martin Luther King Jr.’s courage and eloquence, and spoke on how Dr. King made America freer and fairer. 

“Is the job done? Of course not. It is for us, each of us in our own way with out hearts and minds, to carry on the work of this extraordinary man,” Trible said. 

Trible was one of the members of the US Senate that voted to create this day to honor Martin Luther King Jr. He stated that although the United States still has some challenges and problems, America has come along way.

“Dr. King would say that Christopher Newport must be a place where everyone is welcomed and appreciated for the content of their character, not judged by the color of their skin. Where we fulfil our potential for greatness, where we understand the importance of a rich diversity and being inclusive.”

Trible believes Martin Luther King Jr. would want any day commemorating his life to be “a day on, not a day off.” 

“This day should not be a day of rest and relaxation. It must be a time for action, a time to serve, a time to engage, a time to dream, a time to make the world a better place,” Trible said. “We should use this day to come together in many different kinds of ways to learn, to listen, to serve, to reflect.”

Following Trible’s address, Lindsey Stone, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology, provided a biography of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The keynote speaker of the event was Edith G. White. White graduated from Warwick High School in Newport News, VA, before she eventually became the CEO of the Hampton Roads Community Action Program.

She shared some of her thoughts on Martin Luther King Jr. 2019 as well as courage and compassion.

“The word move in itself is always very exciting because it signals a propensity for change. Change can happen in an instant or it can take decades or even centuries,” White said. 

She described the Civil Rights Movement as part of a continuum of change that began when the first African slaves arrived 400 years ago.

“While no amount of time can erase those images of slavery, chains, oppression, bigotry and hate, with the passing of time we see progress toward a more just, equal and inclusive society,” White said.

She showed the audience how they can demonstrate courage in their everyday lives such as school and work. She emphasized that the time to make change is not always convenient and how it takes courage to make that change. 

“The true test rests not in times of your own comfort and convenience but rather when you are needed to rise to the occasion, to seize the moment … You must not retreat but rather press forward on the continuum of change,” White said.

White also stated that current situation of our country is an era of bigotry, divisiveness and violent attacks that threaten to turn back time.

“While saddened by these incidents and many more, we must not let attacks defeat the vision. We must not allow fear to overcome courage,” White said. 

Throughout the commemoration, there were multiple musical performances. The CNU Chamber Choir performed “Battle of Jericho” and “MLK,” vocalist Liesl Mattar performed “Up to the Mountain,” based on Dr. King’s speech and harpist Danielle Caldwell presented “Aria in Classic Style.”

Students lead a procession to the Pope Chapel for spiritual reflection after the commemoration concluded. 

There, Reverend Willard Maxwell Pastor of New Grove Beach Baptist Church and President of Newport News National Association for the Advancement Colored People (NAACP) continued the discussion. 

~Emma Dixon, News Editor~

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