Martin Luther King Day Observance 2001

MLK Observance 2001

Davidson College Celebrates the Life of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Davidson initiated its spring semester on Monday, January 15, with a day devoted to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Regularly scheduled classes were deferred in favor of a variety of observances open to students, faculty, staff, and members of the public.

A prayer breakfast at Vail Commons featured a talk by Lee Jones, associate dean for academic affairs and instruction at Florida State University. Beginning his remarks with song and poetry, Jones based his comments on the question, "If Martin were here today, what would he say?" Jones said the number one problem in America is still our inability to deal with the issue of race, and claimed that it will not go away until we learn to speak the truth about it.

Lee Jones
Lee Jones spoke at the prayer breakfast which opened MLK day activities.

Jones recalled his own struggle to succeed, which led him from inner city poverty to a Ph.D. at The Ohio State University. It included overcoming his own resentment toward a racist professor determined to block him from enrollment in the prestigious graduate program. The lesson he took from that experience was daring to be different, to seek obstacles and challenges, and to show love.

Jones concluded by rattling off the twenty-six "ABCs of Responsible Living," and urged listeners to "be just as enthusiastic about the successes of others as you are of your own success."

Following his talk, Dr. Jones posed with Davidson building services workers (l-r) Gloria Cole, Frank Rucker, and Gregory Frazier, as well as his long-time friend Ernest Jeffries, Davidson's assistant dean of students who organized King Day events.

The breakfast was followed by presentation of a documentary film, "Freedom on My Mind," and discussion led by Pamela Grundy, a visiting professor in the history department.

About 100 children from the community showed up for the college's "King Day for Kids" in Baker Sports Center. Sophomore Jeremy Campbell organized other student volunteers to lead small groups of the children through arts and crafts activitiessuch as puppet making and quilt making. Accomplished storyteller Nancy Fairley, associate professor of anthropology and sociology, began the event with a lively tale about tolerance. Sophomore Shaw Hipsher led a group in coloring African masks, and junior Carla Bullock read excerpts from Rev. King's "I Have A Dream" speech.

Aldridge and Williams
Assistant professor Daniel Aldridge (left) discusses his presentation on the life of Rev. King with colleague professor Bob Williams.

The afternoon unfolded in the College Union, with presentations by three Davidson professors, and a panel discussion about the college and town's experiences during the civil rights struggle.

Daniel Aldridge, assistant professor of history, presented a biography of Rev. King. He impressed upon the audience that Rev. King sacrificed a life of comfort and convenience to accept a leadership role in the civil rights movement, and then sacrificed a great deal of popularity among both white and black supporters to take principled stands against the Vietnam War and racial injustice in northern cities. He said Rev. King's greatest legacy was placing the American civil rights movement on the world stage as a great modern vision of democracy.

Rudy Jackson, assistant professor of education, engaged an audience in the Home Room in dialogue about "Equality or Fairness?" That discussion covered the minority student experience at Davidson, and the importance of opening doors between the races. "Being able to share and reflect with each other will give us something to take away and help our campus move forward," he said.

As the session broke up, (l-r) sophomores Susana Rodriguez and Muna Musiitwa paused to do just that with Ed Kania, the college controller.

Susan Roberts, professor of political science, talked with another group about "Does Your Vote Count?" Much of that discussion focused on the recent presidential election and possible electoral reform.

The separate audiences converged following those three talks for a single presentation about the town and college during the Civil Rights struggle, which was presented by three professors emeriti, Tony Abbott, Dan Rhodes, and David Kaylor, and life-long town resident Ruby Houston.

(l-r) Tony Abbott, Ruby Houston, Dan Rhodes and David Kaylor, talked about their experiences in the town of Davidson during the civil rights movement.

Rhodes and Abbott had both chaired the town's community relations committee, and talked about the efforts of that body to integrate local businesses in the early 1960s. Rhodes recalled the college's own moves toward integration, which began with a call from Presbyterian missionaries in Africa for admission of their students to church-affiliated colleges in the United States. Rhodes recalled the committee's efforts to reach out to Davidson's own African American community through solicitation of government housing aid that led to construction of the Lakeside community.

Houston, family involvement coordinator with the Charlotte/Mecklenburg School system, talked about the racism she encountered as one of the first students to integrate North Mecklenburg High School in 1965. While praising many in the college community for their positive involvement in the struggle, she noted that "the civil rights movement is still every day of my life...even though most people now believe all of us are created equal, the playing field still isn't level."

(l-r) Seniors Clark Scalera, Kate Fiedler, and Rob Harkey were among those students in attendance to hear Houston say that the best aspect of living in a college town is the annual infusion of young people like themselves. She praised their idealism and energy, which is frequently directed toward helping people in need through mentoring and service programs at agencies such as the Ada Jenkins Community Center.

Rev. Parrott
Members of the community got a chance to meet Rev. Parrott at a reception following the worship service.

The day's activities concluded with an evening worship service in Love Auditorium. Senior Allen Lee was among students participating in the service, which featured musical offerings by the group, Ascensions With new Beginnings from the C.N. Jenkins Memorial Presbyterian Church in Charlotte.

Rev. Dr. Joan S. Parrott delivered a sermon entitled "Is There Not A Cause?" drawing parallels between the challenges faced by the Biblical shepherd David and those of Dr. Martin Luther King. Parrott is the vice president of leadership and spiritual renewal programs for the Children's Defense Fund. She pointed out that both David and Rev. King were ordinary men that God used to do extraordinary things, and that both used their knowledge and skills to speak out against tyranny.

Rev. Parrott called on her audience to emulate David and Rev. King by "getting out of the box," the place of comfort and opportunity, to answer the call of impoverished and oppressed people around the world. She concluded, "What will your legacy be? Is there not a cause burning in your soul that's bigger than you? I challenge you to find a cause, and to take God with you, because you will need God!"

The evening's program ended with a reception at which worshippers had a chance to meet Rev. Parrott. The worship service concluded with joined hands and a chorus of "We Shall Overcome," which reinforced for worshippers like Rob Spach, college chaplain, the fellowship of love between all people.

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