When the doors of the Chapman Auditorium opened on Thursday, Jan. 13, crowds of people flooded in for the celebration honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Within the crowd were individuals from the Florence Chamber of Commerce, representatives from McLeod Heath, First Reliance Bank, and even FMU President Dr. Fred Carter.
The theme that the program was centered on this year was “Celebrating the Legacy, Living the Dream.” To complement the theme, the keynote speaker for this year, McDonalds’s owner and operator Wanda DuBose James, came with the message, “Celebrate our unity in our diversity.”
“Diversity has become one of the most often used words in our time, and a word that is never defined,” James said. “Our forefather (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) devoted his entire life to the struggles so you and I may live in a diverse society.”
James said that King’s contributions to the world are what give everyone the right today to celebrate unity within diversity. She brought to everyone’s attention that King’s dream affected all of humanity and that should not go unnoticed. Although King was a primary advocate for African Americans, King’s dream ultimately was to support everyone’s constitutional right of being equal. She took an excerpt from King’s speech at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. that he spoke on March 31, 1968, to support her point.
“In a multi-racial society, no group can make it alone,” James said, quoting from King.
James spoke about some of her personal childhood memories of racial tensions. She said that she remembered seeing and hearing King’s speech as a child. James said that she had an obligation to succeed, and she made a vow to her heart to become successful. Now, since James has accomplished many achievements, her ultimate goal is to be an impact in someone’s life.
“The legacy that I would like to leave behind is to know that I have touched somebody as I pass along,” James said. “Then I know that my living was not in vain, in as much as I had lived the examined life, subjecting my motives and actions to the scrutiny of mind and heart so to rise above prejudice and hatred.”
As James concluded her speech and went back to her seat, her husband Arnett D. James III and her two sons Arnett D. James IV and Alex James gave her a standing ovation. Also cheering her on were some of her employees, fellow sorority sisters of Delta Sigma Theta Inc., and close friends.
Although the format for the program was not very different from last year, there were a few significant changes that made a difference. Among these was the student video tribute to replace the PowerPoint tribute from the 12th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration last year. The video diversified the audience’s experience by adding additional student speaking and performance roles. Another noticeable change was the musical selection rendered by the Celebration Ensemble.
“I believe that many people do not know how much work goes on behind the scenes of the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Celebration,” Assistant Dean of Students Daphne R. Carter said. “Finding a keynote speaker that can cater to an audience of all ages can be challenging, and the advisory committee works hard to ensure that both community members and students are informed about the accomplishments of Dr. King and its impact on our society.”
Other programs to recognize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other important people during the Civil Rights Era are planned. The next will be The Black Heritage Month Program. It is scheduled to take place in the beginning of February. People who come to the program can expect music honoring the triumphs made by many African Americans.