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MLK event challenges students to ‘save the soul of America’

Though the platform was different, the themes for unity and equality persisted as Trine University’s Multicultural Student Organization presented its 30th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Black History Month celebration on Feb. 26.

Themed “What would Dr. King Think Today?,” the event was pre-recorded and streamed on the Trine Broadcasting Network to protect the health and safety of the campus and community.

Following the opening prayer by civil engineering major Lance Williamson and a reading on “Our World Through the Lens of Dr. King” by Chinazam Okoroafor, president of MSO and Trine Student Government, Angola Mayor Richard Hickman reflected on the theme of the 2020 celebration, “Unity is Our Greatest Strength.”

“I don’t believe any of us realized just how prophetic that theme was at that time,” he said in his welcome from the city. “Hopefully we have learned that whether it be a pandemic, elections or social inequities, we are in this together.”

Reflecting on this year’s theme, Hickman said he thought Dr. King would be discouraged at the division that remains more than 50 years after his death, but that he would continue to push for change.

“Giving up and giving in were not in Dr. King’s DNA, and they cannot be in ours,” he said.

Offering a welcome from the university, Trine University President Earl D. Brooks II, Ph.D., noted that a marble bench on campus is inscribed with a quote from Dr. King: “Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of a true education.”

“As we reflect tonight on Dr. King’s life and legacy, we focus especially on the character of a man who spoke of transforming enemies into friends, of being concerned with all humanity, and of living together as one,” Brooks said. “As a university, and as a nation, we must work together, on a foundation of justice and fairness for all, to value all citizens equally and build on the strengths that exist in every person to bring about a better community and a more humane world.”

Following special music by Niyoki Chapman, gospel artist and music minister at Union Baptist Church in Fort Wayne, Rev. Donovan Coley, head of The Rescue Mission in Fort Wayne, presented the keynote address.

Coley began by noting the numerous quotes by Dr. King he saw posted on social media during the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

“As these quotes were being placed there, I realized that our reality is so far from the dream,” he said.

The United States, Coley said, lost its conscience in the past during times of slavery and racial inequity, and this has carried over into today. But he believes Dr. King would say the generation that includes current Trine students “has the capacity to save the soul of America.”

“As I reflect upon the history of America and then as I reflect upon the contemporary situation and I reflect upon the fact that so much of who we are as a nation has now been exposed, I believe it is now high time for this generation to rise up,” Coley said. “I believe that Dr. King would say you are the generation that has the courage, you have the consistency and as young people you have the capacity and you have the character to right the wrongs of the past.”

Coley challenged students to “build relationships that will last a lifetime.” Students can build these relationships, he said, by being intentional and stepping outside of their comfort zone, by getting permission to ask questions and develop shared vulnerability, by inviting others into their circle and by investing their lives for the good of humanity.

“As Dr. King was a young man of change, may you become a young person of change,” he said, “not only in your family, but in your friendships, in your community and in your nation.”

Closing the broadcast, Deborah McHenry, executive director of student success and retention and advisor for the Multicultural Student Organization (MSO), challenged those viewing to make the fight for equality and unity more than an annual event.

“Let’s do everything we can to make Dr. King’s dream a reality,” she said.

The program also is available on Trine's YouTube channel.

Top photo: Rev. Donovan Coley, president and CEO of The Rescue Mission in Fort Wayne, gestures as he speaks during a pre-recorded session for Trine University's 30th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Black History Month celebration. The event was streamed on the Trine Broadcasting Network on Feb. 26. (Photos by Dean Orewiler)

  • Niyoki Chapman

    Niyoki Chapman - Niyoki Chapman, gospel artist and music minister at Union Baptist Church in Fort Wayne, sings in the recording studio at Trine University. Her performance was part of the university's 30th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Black History Month celebration, which streamed on the Trine Broadcasting Network on Feb. 26.

  • Chinazam Okoroafor

    Chinazam Okoroafor - Chinazam Okoroafor, president of MSO and Trine Student Government, reads “Our World Through the Lens of Dr. King” as part of the 30th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Black History Month celebration.

  • Deborah McHenry

    Deborah McHenry - Deborah McHenry, executive director of student success and retention and advisor for the Multicultural Student Organization (MSO), closes the 30th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Black History Month celebration.