MLK Day Events Challenge Students to Pursue the Dream

MLK Day Events Challenge Students to Pursue the Dream

Brisa Ramirez

The first day of Spring Semester 2021 at Southwestern Adventist University began with a special opportunity to celebrate and reflect on the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through a series of events entitled “Pursue the Dream.” Events throughout the day included both in-person and online programming that challenged participants to continue to pursue the dream outlined in the historic “I Have a Dream” speech delivered in 1963. The words of Dr. King continue to provide inspiration today as we seek justice, peace and reconciliation.

The morning began with a physically distanced welcome session that included an introduction to this important day by university president, Dr. Ken Shaw, a compilation of prayers for justice shared by Heather Archer-Wilson, Professor of Education, a special video message for our campus from G. Alexander Bryant, President of the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists as well as a Maya Angelou poem recitation by Esther Sousa, junior music and pre-professional major. In closing, Dr. Ron Mitchell, professor of nursing introduced a highlight film of the “I Have a Dream” speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In his message, Bryant commended the university’s administration for taking the time to commemorate the day. He shared that MLK day is “more than a celebration of a man, but it is a celebration of an idea behind that man, an idea that we are all created equal, an idea that we are God’s children and that God has given us this incredible gift of freedom and equality. That is what Martin Luther King stood for.”

Throughout the day, students had the option to attend a variety of breakout sessions including documentary showings, a specially curated MLK themed exhibit located in the library, a pre-recorded video interview with the university’s first African American alum, Pastor Billy Wright, facilitated by theology professor Pastor Buster Swoopes and a conversation on music as a platform to support justice and equity facilitated by music professor Dr. Devon Howard. There were a variety of locations open to ensure that distancing guidelines could be followed, and students had access to content online so they could view sessions they missed or wanted to learn more about.

In the evening, students made their way back to the gym for one final event sponsored by student services featuring interactive opportunities and a closing video message from Calvin Watkins, President of the Southwest Region Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Watkins shared about the importance of King’s dream and that it was not a dream about only him but also about the world around him. He encouraged SWAU students to focus on unselfish dreams and to dream about how the world around them could be better.

The United Nations Club facilitated a booth that gave students information about how to reach out to their government representatives to ask for changes that matter to them and provided an opportunity to sign the LEAD Anti-Racism Pledge. The Psych-Ed Club, from the Department of Education & Psychology, hosted a booth offering students the opportunity to write letters to local students, sharing what their hopes are for the world around them and encouraging these students to keep fighting for their dreams.

Veronica Jones and Evelyn Garcia are both part of the United Nations Club on campus. They both appreciated the day’s events and that the university’s administration was compelled to host a full-day event to celebrate and commemorate the work of Martin Luther King Jr.

Garcia was moved by the messages and grateful to hear from important leaders within the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Their involvement paired with the intentionality behind the day’s gatherings showed her how seriously administration was taking this day-long event and gave her a preview of what was yet to come.

“I loved that the SWAU administration took the time to plan a day-long event surrounding a current issue and honoring the man who made amazing changes for the African American community,” shares Garcia. “They truly went all out with this event.”

With Black History Month right around the corner, Jones looks forward to the events that will be taking place in February. As president of the United Nations Club, she and her team are working alongside other campus clubs as well as the Office of Spiritual Development to provide a variety of events. She’s excited for everything else that SWAU has in store to help students pursue their dream and continue to celebrate the university’s diverse heritage.

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