Davidson College celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a schedule of events aimed at education, inspiration, and service. Students were returning to campus from Christmas break as a community gospel fest and worship service kicked off the celebration on Sunday evening, January 16. The choir from C.N. Jenkins Presbyterian Church in Charlotte led celebrants in making a joyful noise. The church music directors, Ronald Monroe and Pamela Nelson led the singers, who included Davidson alumni (l-r) Joy Sparks '98 and Vonia Singleton '98. Davidson chaplain Rob Spach and assistant chaplain Brenda Tapia led prayers and introduction of Rev. Jerry Cannon for the sermon. His remarks on "The Benefits of Memory," urged listeners to draw on the strength of their ancestors, like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and their trust in the Lord, to face the future. The service ended with a message of hope as choir and congregation alike joined in singing "We Shall Overcome." The event left many attendees with a renewed sense of closeness to their neighbors.
No classes were held on Monday, January 17, so that members of the college family could participate in King Day events. The early-morning Unity Prayer Breakfast at Vail Commons kicked off the day with an opportunity for fellowship and praise. Senior Patrick Daymond and Nancy Cable, vice president for admission and financial aid, enjoyed breakfast together. Nowell Zimmermann and John Watson , two singers with the male student a cappela group, The Generals, entertained the crowd with song. Ed Kania,the college controller, emceed the event and introduced the speaker, Rev. James Howell, pastor of Davidson United Methodist Church. Rev. Howell told his audience that the division in society today is not between white and black, but between those who care about race relations and those who don't. He challenged those who care to actively engage those who don't. "Set yourself on a mission to win them over," he urged.
Several dozen students demonstrated their faith in action by conducting a service project at the nearby Ada Jenkins Community Center. Members of the college community have been heavily involved in the three-year project to renovate the old school as a center for after-school programming, adult life-skills education, and social services. The project for the day was the grubby job of clearing out the basement . The 65 Bonner Scholars on campus, including senior Brian Weiler helped make short work of the messy job.
The Bonner Scholars worked on all the King Day projects, moving next to Baker Sports Center, where a lobby full of children and parents participated in "King Day for Kids" there. Senior Aaliyah El-Amin, andMark Hanf and Bo Henderson, led children in an art project that reflected their dreams. Young Charity Alexander crafted her own special message. Event leaders Jeremy Campbell and Britta Toleman called on children to speak about Dr. King, and the event concluded with a film about his life and work.
The afternoon featured educational seminars about Dr. King and race relations. Susan Roberts, associate professor of political science, spoke on the politics and implications minority/majority districts. Ernest Jeffries, assistant dean of students and an accomplished musician, talked about the music of the civil rights movement. Junior student Rebecca Pocock talked about King's philosophy of non-violence, and received a congratulatory hug afterward from friend Mary Stokes. History professor Ralph Levering presented 10 points on why Dr. King was an effective leader. Charlotte journalist/author Frye Gaillard, who covered Charlotte's 1970s busing situation for the Charlotte Observer, recalled the history of desegregation of Charlotte/Mecklenburg schools (CMS). His wife Nancy, a current CMS principal, enjoyed informal discussion following his presentation.
A campus visit and talk by Dr. Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the National Children's Defense Fund, was the highlight of the day's activities. Dr. Edelman met informally with members of the community in the late afternoon in the 900 Room. Following the 30-minute presentation, she was accompanied by Ernest Jeffries and others to dinner at Vail Commons. Her escort for much of the visit was Jehan Shamsid-Deen '01. When she was a high school student in Charlotte, Jehan had won a $2,000 college scholarship from the National Children's Defense Fund as one of five winners of the NCDF national "Beat the Odds Award" competition.
Prior to Edelman's formal address as the college's Reynold's Lecturer, members of the community gathered on the front steps of Chambers for a candlelight vigil. Brenda Flanagan, professor of English, reminded participants of the true meaning of the day by reading from start to finish Dr. King's famous "I Have A Dream" speech.
A crowd of about 750 people gathered in Love Auditorium for Dr. Edelman's talk. She was accompanied on stage by public lectures committee chair Elizabeth Mills, professor of English. Dr. Edelman presented a lecture that outlined the dangers of violence and poverty for all Americans, and called on the public to get involved in the lives of young people. She noted that 74% of poor children come from families with parents who work, and said that hunger is not an act of God, but a result of political choices. She recalled her encounters with Dr. King, who said on many occasions that our choice is not between violence and nonviolence, but between nonviolence and existence. She reminded parents that all children are their children, and need guidance, engagement, and caring from a broad community of "co-parents." She urged students to enter the "noble profession" of teaching, and urged everyone to insist that politicians invest more public funds in people and less in national defense. "We must vote and struggle for children who can't," she said, "so that no child is left behind."
Audience member had an opportunity to meet Dr. Edelman individually following her speech at a book signing and reception. Many people purchased her latest book, Lanterns: Memoirs of Mentors, including Davidson residents Bob and Deborah Cumming.
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