UTM hosts annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration

The Black Student Association and The City of Martin joined forces to host the fourth annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration and breakfast on Monday, Jan. 18, 2016.

Sodexo Dining Services provided breakfast for the event, which hosted students, faculty, public officials and other community members who made reservations for the meal. Marchell Gardner and sophomore marketing major Corri Chanel Oliver were the keynote speakers at the event.

Oliver spoke on three qualities that she and Dr. King both exemplify, and that she considers necessary for success: passion, dedication and discipline.

Meanwhile, Gardner delivered the Langston Hughes poem “Dream Deferred,” and spoke of the ways that Hughes influenced Dr. King and the importance of “speaking life” for all people.

Both speakers received standing ovations at the conclusion of their speeches.

Several special guests attended the ceremnoy, including Dr. Danny Donaldson, who played the piano both solo and as an accompanist for senior vocal education major Asha Moody.

In addition, Sarah Yarbrough, the 2016 Miss Tennessee Soybean Festival, gave a speech of her own. The invocation was given by Pastor Orrin A. Cowley of McCabe United Methodist Church, and Associate Professor of History and Philosophy Dr. David Barber presented information regarding the 16th Annual Civil Rights Conference.

David Belote, alderman of Martin and a faculty member at UTM, served as the master of ceremonies. He presented many of Dr. King’s quotes as they related to the student leadership challenge.

In addition, Interim Chancellor Dr. Robert Smith offered a reflection on the history of civil rights, as well as a discussion of Dr. King’s impact and his effects on history leading to the present. Smith reminded the crowd that Dr. King was a common man in an uncommon role and that it is “not by age or position, but by a calling to lead,” that young people can achieve greatness.

The conclusion of the ceremony included the presentation of awards by The Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the Black Student Association and the City of Martin to distinguished students and community members. The breakfast was closed by a powerful rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” led by Ms. Asha Moody.

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