Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Celebrations increased this year with five new events

~Morgan Barclay, Editor-in-Chief~

The words of  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. echoed on campus. Whether it be in the Gaines Theater, the DSU Ballroom, the Trible Plaza, the Pope Chapel, or just walking on the Great Lawn, the campus was alive with the words of the civil rights leader. 

Through six unique events, the university asked students to reflect on the life, legacy and words of the leader. Of these six, five were new editions this year– the student processional, the spiritual reflection, the 21 day racial equity challenge, the oratorical contest and the food drive.

These events were more publicized than in years before too. Two emails were personally sent from the president’s office to students. Last semester, only nine emails in total were sent from the office, given this a great meaning.

These events also came after a petition was launched by CNU student Marckel Bonds over the break, that asked for the day off, so students could commit more fully to service. 

Bonds shared in a previous interview with The Captain’s Log that some of these new editions were done in part due to the increased interest his petition raised and through his meeting with President Trible. 

Whatever the case, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s voice was heard across campus. The following are a few quotes that echoed across our campus this week.

The annual commemoration event asked students to reflect on the process of moving toward change with vision, courage and compassion. 

Taking place at 3 p.m. in the Gaines Theater, on Martin Luther King Day, the event was standing room only. Both students, faculty and community members were in attendance for the speech, a large increase from the events in years past, according to Special Assistant to the Vice President of Student Affairs for Diversity & Inclusion Vidal Dickerson. 

The event, opened by Dickerson, featured speeches from President Trible and a keynote by Edith G. White, along with musical performances by CNU Chamber Choir, vocalist Liesl Mattar and harpist Danielle Caldwell. A biography of King was also read by CNU Assistant Professor of Psychology Lindsey Stone. Closing remarks were read by Student Engagement Fellow Joshua Duhe-Harris.

The keynote by White, a community leader and CEO of the Hampton Roads Community Action Program, asked the audience to particularly reflect on how they make changes in their own lives. More specifically she encouraged those to make change even when it is inconvenient. 

Using modern day political examples of violence and bigotry to bring King’s words into the twenty-first century. 

“While saddened by these incidents and many more, we must not let attacks defeat the vision. We must not let fear overcome courage,” White said at the end of her address.

Led by students like Marckel Bonds, the processional across campus asked community members to make a visual statement about their appreciation for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The processional which ran from the Gaines Theater to the Pope Chapel following the commemoration event, went around Luter and across the Great Lawn on Monday afternoon.

Both students, faculty, staff and community members braved the cold day to march. 

Those on campus were encouraged to join in on the march as the community walked towards the Pope Chapel. 

Both President Paul Trible and CNU student and Vice President of the Black Student Union Marckel Bonds were honored by the Newport News Chapter of the NAACP on Monday, Jan. 21 during an event held in the Pope Chapel. 

The event was hosted by the President of the Newport News Chapter of the NAACP, Reverend Dr. Willard Maxwell and also featured an opening statement by Bonds. 

Maxwell shared that he was proud of Bonds and the other students leaders on campus for speaking up and asking CNU to better honor the day.

“Students you did exactly what Dr. King would have done, you organized the masses you got petitions in support of your cause signed, you reached out to local leaders to help support and advise you, you did everything…the dream lives on in you.”

He also shared that he was proud of Trible for sitting down with students, as he did not have to as the President of CNU, especially after releasing two statements on the matter.

“President Trible did not have to listen, but he found it in his heart to…”

Beyond this, Maxwell also gave a keynote speech that asked community members to reflect on the importance of faith in change. 

weary, but you will be able to continue to press on,” Maxwell said, emphasizing the importance of having something larger to have faith in when approaching change.

But even though, he mentions this larger something, the speech remained secular in nature, not mentioning any one higher power. 

Maxwell also went further by asking community members to reflect on the power their own voice can have.

“Here we are 51 years later and we still hear Dr. King’s voices echoing in our institutions, but what is it saying. Let’s go a step further, what will your voice say,” Maxwell said.

He specifically asked students to examine their online life as well. 

“What are you saying on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, what are you saying on whatever platform you have, does your voice really matter? Are you using your voice to uplift mankind?”

The event also featured musical selections and time for reflection.

Moving from speeches and contests, to something behind the computer screen, Special Assistant to the Vice President of Student Affairs for Diversity & Inclusion Vidal Dickerson, asked students, faculty and staff to join in on a twenty-one day racial equity challenge. 

The challenge which was originally inspired by the work done by Debby Irving, asked those engaging in it, to investigate the complexities of diversity and racial equity and their own limitations on the subject. More specifically, the challenge would ask individuals to engage with the topic of racial equity each day through a different activity. These activities included doing research, engaging with the community, taking personal action in their own lives and watching documentaries. 

“It’s almost like an independent study,” Dickerson said.

The dates were also chosen specifically. Beginning on the Jan. 22, the annual day for racial healing.

“It was just fitting,” Dickerson said. 

Dickerson also wanted to provide students looking for more information and engagement following the event had it. 

“It’s critical at this time, because we are aware of divisions as it relates to race and ethnicity, but we’re not engaged in conversations and if we are, how can I enter that conversation in a more informed way, and we’re providing that opportunity for them”

Seventy-two students participated and Dickerson hopes that this event will continue on to next year. 

It started with a newsletter. Receiving a weekly email from Newport News Now, Presidential Leadership Program Administrative Assistant Louise Divis, was inspired to make a change on CNU’s campus. 

Following the lead of an initiative by the mayor, CNU’s PLP office honored Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. life of service, with a service project of their own, a food drive in partnership with the Virginia Food Bank.

The drive was also completed from planning to execution in just under one week. This would leave many fearing the worst, but for the office they saw a commitment to service in the CNU students.

Reflecting on the event PLP’s Coordinator for Experiential Learning said, “It all fell in line and it did for a reason.” 

The drive ended up collecting 145 pounds of food and $20.19.

This amount was much needed according to Musick, PLP’s Coordinator for Experiential Learning. 

“People get into the giving spirit during the holidays, and you come back after the new year and the stock is not there anymore. The banks really need replenishment at this time. ,” Musick said.

This said, although the event was a success for the office, they hope that in the future students will take hold of what they called the inaugural event.

“Our hope is in the future that this will be completely student driven,” Divis said.

Words of students rang out of the DSU Ballroom on the night of Thursday Jan. 24. 

The first annual oratorical contest, asked students to speak on quotes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in a contest where they were judged on oration.

The contest was judged by CNU student and Black Student Union President Ashley Nelson, Special Assistant to the Vice President of Student Affairs for Diversity & Inclusion Vidal Dickerson, and CNU Communications Professor Dr. Joe Sery. 

Four students competed in the contest, Edward Benton, Brandon Cumbo, Sivahle Ellis and Alaeldin Haroun. 

These students were given three to five minutes to respond to the quote without the aid of technology. 

The event was adapted from the essay contest done in year’s past after comments were made by Nelson to Dickerson. Dickerson was also happy to have an oratorical contest this year as it is traditional to have in celebrations of King’s life. 

“He was an amazing orator,” Dickerson said.

Dickerson also wanted yet another way for students to engage with King’s work and words, citing that the experience of hearing from peers is different than hearing from community members.

The winner of the contest and $200 was Sivahle Ellis for her speech which focused on courage. An honorable mention and $50 was given to Edward Benton for his speech which focused on living through King’s vision for tomorrow. The honorable mention was chosen by audience members of the event. 

The other speakers at the event spoke on forgiveness and prejudice.

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“The ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand in moments of courage and convenience, but where they stand in moments of challenge and controversy”

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’

“The time is always right to do what’s right”

“​I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”

“Let us therefore continue our triumphal march to the realization of the American dream.”

“The true test rests not in times of your own comfort and convenience, but rather when you are needed to rise to your own occasion.”

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