Photo and story by Enrique Geronimo / Contributing Writer
A candlelight vigil and remembrance ceremony was held Monday night in the Student Union in honor of what would have been the 90th birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., reverend and leader of the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Coordinated by the Intercultural and Diversity Affairs Center, the vigil opened with words from Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., the first sorority organization established by women of color. President BréYhana C. Johnson and vice president Cherilynn Mella welcomed everyone and said King should be remembered for his nonviolent activism that has carried a legacy for many years after his death.
Following these statements, there was a vocal performance by Kyle Clark, the president of MTSU’s Generation of Purpose Gospel Choir, and then two videos presented by AKA. The videos showed the vast impact of the civil rights movement, including a clip of King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which still resonates with the nation 55 years later.
After the videos ended, AKA member Jada Thomas spoke on the importance of King’s legacy through historically black colleges and universities.
Shortly after, Aaron Treadwell, the keynote speaker and senior pastor at African Methodist Episcopal Church, began his speech with a moment of silence and meditation.
“For all the people negatively affected by the government shutdown and for things that are happening now that MLK was fighting for in Memphis, in our own state, days before he died,” Treadwell said, as he dedicated his moment of reverence.
Treadwell is an assistant professor of history at MTSU. His areas of expertise are black spirituality, U.S. history with an emphasis on socio-political activism and African-American history.
“King didn’t let fear stop him,” Treadwell said. “The reality that King realized was that even good people had to deal with nightmares. We live in a world where every single body in one form or another will find ourselves in a nightmare situation.”
“Do not let your nightmares defeat you,” Treadwell said, speaking very passionately on the matter. “Will you let your destiny control your nightmares, or your destiny control your dreams?”
After Treadwell’s speech, pop duo Carie Ferra and Andrea Seay sang a cover of Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me” while electronic candles were passed out. A video of King began to play as students “lit” their candles, and a blue hue encompassed the room.
Motivational speaker Anthony Burton also spoke, reminding students to actively help each other in tribute to King. Following Burton, Dakota Logan, a college pastor at the Point Campus Ministry, led everyone in a prayer that King himself used to pray and a recitation of the True Blue Pledge that Logan encouraged students to say with pride.
As the event ended, Johnson and Mella came back on stage for the closing remarks.
“If you ask yourself where you can be active, it’s all around us: on television, in school, on the internet,” Johnson said. “It’s up to us to keep the revolution alive.”
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