Through exuberant song, dramatic readings, and reflective interpretations, students, faculty, and community members celebrated the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in a program Monday evening in Baxter 101. “This evening, we will gather to reflect upon issues of social and global justice, racial matters, peace and love, and respect for the divine spark in all humanity,” said Dr. Timothy Lake, director of the Malcolm X Institute for Black Studies.
As the program began, Dr. Lake quickly tied the Civil Rights movement into Wabash’s tenets of leadership and service. “It is fitting that Wabash join with the nation and indeed the world to reflect upon the contributions of those foot soldiers of the Civil Rights movement,” Dr. Lake said, as he called upon students to look not only to Dr. King, but to those involved in the Civil Rights movement who had “given of themselves to the forming of our grand experiment of democracy.”
The program kept participants engaged as it interspersed vocal performances from the MXI Singers and the Second Baptist Church Choir between readings from Dr. King’s Stride Toward Freedom and Strength to Love as well as Rosa Parks’ Quiet Strength. The excerpts, which tackled serious topics such as racism and oppression, were juxtaposed alongside energetic and hopeful renditions of African American spirituals. The MXI Singers, a quartet composed of seniors Edward Davis and Danny King, junior Deonte’ Singfield, and sophomore Reginald Steele, sang spirituals such as “Down by the Riverside” in multi-part harmony while the enthusiastic Baxter 101 audience kept time with their hands and feet.
Reverend Kenneth Wilson, a pastor at the Second Baptist Church. Reverend Wilson summarized the life of Dr. King through a Biblical verse from the book of John, as he quoted, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for a friend.” This willingness to sacrifice himself for his cause, as well as the desire to lead without delegation, were two of the key qualities that made Dr. King such an outstanding leader, Reverend Wilson said.
Despite the emphasis on the past, Dr. King’s influence on the present day was not lost. “I believe that because Dr. King displayed the courage that he did at that particular time that today America has an African American president,” Reverend Wilson said. On a more personal level, Wilson added that King’s vision and drive were instrumental to his own success. “Dr. King had a dream, and because he had a dream, because he did what he did, I can.”
The evening reached a crescendo with a dramatic reading of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. MXIBS members read alternating lines while multiple members exclaimed some of the especially poignant lines in unison. King’s dream became a reality before the audience’s very eyes, as Wabash students of multiple races delivered the speech side-by-side with poise and conviction.
As the program came to a close, Dr. Jill Lamberton, a visiting English professor, offered those in attendance a parting blessing to continue Dr. King’s work. Quoting the Bible, she stated, “I would pray that you, you who stand for justice and fight for freedom will go out with joy and be led forth in peace. That the mountains and the hills will break into song for you, and that the trees and of the field will clap their hands.”
The day of celebration began this morning with a symbolic march across campus. Lake, assistant basketball coach Antoine Carpenter (at right), and retired track coach Rob Johnson all offered brief remarks.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was born January 15, 1929, and the federal holiday that honors his birth has been observed annually on the third Monday in January since 1986.