Middle Tennessee State University again honored slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in observance of the national holiday, though this year’s event was moved to a virtual format due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The annual MLK Celebration and Candlelight Vigil aired at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 18, featuring pre-recorded remarks, special video presentations, artistic performances and a socially-distanced candlelight vigil in the Quad area as part of a moment of reflection toward the end of the presentation. (WATCH THE REPLAY ABOVE.)
The livestreamed broadcast of the celebration was accessible on the following platforms:
- MTSU Intercultural and Diversity Affairs Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/mtsuidac
- MTSU’s YouTube channel: https://youtube.com/mtsunews
- True Blue TV: https://mtsu.edu/truebluetv
Vincent Windrow, associate vice provost of student success and pastor of Olive Branch Church, provided rousing keynote remarks encouraging students to be their “authentic selves” as they find their purpose in the world while encouraging the wider audience to heed King’s advice to choose community over chaos.
The MTSU Men’s Choir, featuring Caleb Mitchell and Devon Bowles, were also featured in a powerful visual performance of the song “Glory,” filmed in part on the grounds of Oaklands Mansion, a former Murfreesboro plantation now serving as a museum; and Jalen Everett, president of MTSU’s National Pan-Hellenic Council and treasurer of MTSU’s Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, shared remarks about King’s membership in the nation’s oldest historically Black fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, and introduced a video featuring historical footage of King.
“After a year of protests surrounding racial injustice, civil unrest, and an unprecedented pandemic, this year signifies a call-to-action for our community,” said event emcee Daniel Green, director of the Office of Intercultural and Diversity Affairs, host of the annual event.
“This candlelight vigil serves as the opening of our celebration for the week, and an opportunity for the community to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s commitment to social activism and the legacy that has inspired us to continue his movement.”
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led marches and demonstrations throughout the 1950s and 60s that promoted ending racial segregation in public accommodations. His work, inspired by his Christian faith and by nonviolent civil disobedience tactics of Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi, and that of his followers prompted Congress to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
On April 4, 1968, after speaking to sanitation workers who were striking for better wages and working conditions in Memphis, Tennessee, King was assassinated as he stood on the balcony of the city’s Lorraine Motel. In 1991, that location was established as the National Civil Rights Museum and features interactive exhibits, historic collections, dynamic speakers and special events.
In November 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the law creating Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a national celebration of King’s birthday. The first observance was on Jan. 20, 1986, and the holiday is observed on the third Monday in January.
King, who would have been 92 years old this year, was born Jan. 15, 1929.
MTSU was closed Monday in observance of the holiday. MTSU students not taking winter session courses remain on winter break, with the Spring 2021 semester set to begin Monday, Jan. 25.
For more information about the event, contact Green at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Jimmy Hart (Jimmy.Hart@mtsu.edu)