Campus gathers to celebrate life of Dr. King: Speaker inspires audience to live with purpose, vision


Photo by: Austin Kemmerlin

The YGB choir performed at FMU’s annual Martin Luther King Celebration. This year’s celebration was held on Dr. KIng’s birthday.

Rebecca Cross, Managing Editor

Francis Marion University (FMU) hosted the 17th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration, an event focused on commemorating King’s life and learning from his leadership model. Students, faculty, staff and guests gathered on Jan. 15 at 6:30 p.m. in Chapman Auditorium to attend the celebration. Breanna Robertson, president of FMU’s chapter of the National Associated for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), said that she grew up hearing about King’s work as a civil rights activist, but what truly impacted her the most concerning his life were his leadership skills. “The difference between a dreamer and a visionary is that a dreamer has his eyes closed and a visionary has his eyes open,” King said. King considered himself the latter. Guest speaker James T. McLawhorn, Jr., president and CEO of the Columbia Urban League, noted King’s exceptional ability to lead with purpose and vision. “[King] accomplished more in 13 years and made more progress [for civil rights] than was made in the past 350 years,” McLawhorn said. “There is nothing that gives me more honor than to reflect on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The thing we learn about Dr. King is that you’ve got to bring people together. It is not about winners, and it is not about losers, it is about reconciliation.” McLawhorn noted King’s decision not to shy away from tension. King thought it was important to unearth the tension that people were suppressing so that everyone could examine their feelings and differences and decide how to deal with them. “The time is always right to do what is right,” King said. Not only did King have an influential role in bringing about change, he began that influential role at an early age. He was not much older than the college students gathered in Chapman Auditorium when he began taking a leadership role in bus boycotts. McLawhorn challenged the audience with King’s noteworthy query: “’What are you going to do for others?’” “He [King] sacrificed himself for the world as a young person,” McLawhorn said. “You must ask this same question. Students, be grounded and be encouraged that God has your back.” In addition to McLawhorn’s inspirational speech, the Young, Gifted and Blessed Gospel Choir graced the stage with two musical selections. One of the selections was “Lord Do It,” a favorite of King’s. The audience clapped, tapped and hummed to the choir’s engaging performance. Planning for the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration began in October with the first meeting of the event’s advisory committee. The committee continued to meet regularly. Dr. Daphne Carter-McCants, assistant dean of students, said that the Young, Gifted and Blessed Gospel Choir often performs at the celebration. Other students are also given roles at the event. “We want to showcase and highlight our students,” Carter-McCants said. After the celebration, a reception was held in the Lee Nursing Building lobby. Refreshments were available. Attendees mingled and had the opportunity to talk to McLawhorn. Robertson said that one of the reasons she enjoys the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration is the fact that it attracts not only current FMU students but also alumni. “It’s good to see FMU come together,” Robertson said. FMU students involved in the NAACP attended the event. The FMU NAACP chapter also took a trip to Columbia on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to attend King Day at the Dome. Since the event is on a school holiday, many FMU students involved in the NAACP take advantage of the opportunity to attend. Students heard relevant speakers, participated in a march to the capitol building lead by the South Carolina NAACP officials, looked at displays and had lunch at the capitol. “King Day at the Dome is a perfect mixture of ambition, leadership, wisdom and community building,” Robertson said. “It is a reminder that we have people before us that fought.” NAACP is an organization standing for rights and justice for all minorities. The FMU NAACP chapter holds meetings on Thursdays at 5 p.m. in Leatherman Science Facility room 109.