Belmont University presented its 24th annual MLK Commemorative Program to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through inviting the Belmont and Nashville communities to a series of events during the week. This year’s celebration theme was “A Call for Unity: Preserving the Dream.”
Dr. Mary Clark, assistant dean of students and director of Bridges to Belmont, said, “The MLK Commemorative Week is a time when the campus community comes together to reflect and be inspired by the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This year the committee sought to provide activities that would not engage the entire campus but also unite the community. The theme hopefully indicated this and reminded everyone that we all are a part MLK’s dream and legacy.”
The week’s programming kicked off with a celebration breakfast with keynote speaker Dr. Kevin Rome, president of Fisk University, on Friday, January 17. Pastor John Faison of Watson Grove Baptist Church later delivered a chapel service called, “What should Dr. King’s dream look like today?” in the Janet Ayers Academic Center Chapel.
MLK Jr. Day of Service took place Saturday, January 18, with more than 700 volunteers from Belmont, Lipscomb, Meharry, Fisk, Nashville State, Tennessee State University, Trevecca and Vanderbilt, as well as other area colleges and universities, joining to honor Dr. King in a day of service. This year marks the 10th annual day of service, which included projects at local sites such as Project Transformation, The Nashville Food Project and Sexual Assault Center. Volunteers spent the day addressing community needs including food security and community beautification.
One of Belmont’s new initiatives added to the program this year provided a child’s perspective of MLK. Local school-age children provided artwork and essays that were shown in an exhibit on Monday, January 20, demonstrating their perceptions of Dr. King. Later that evening, the annual Candlelight Vigil, sponsored by the Black Student Association, took place to provide a thoughtful space for reflection on the significance of this day of observance.
Later in the week, community members had the opportunity to connect with each other in conversations about unity throughout designated locations across Belmont’s campus. On Wednesday, January 22, a chapel service was held called, “Who is MLK?” led by the Black Student Association Choir. That night, the Black Student Association held a worship service to continue honoring and celebrating Dr. King.
Thursday, January 23, provided a panel discussion with faculty and staff surrounding the continued call for unity as well as a showing in the Johnson Center Theater of “Amazing Grace” with a discussion following.
The week’s concluding event was a final chapel called, “Legal Aid and Civil Rights” in which members of the community heard from DarKenya Waller, executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Middle TN, and Reverend Andrae Crismon, Volunteer Lawyers Program director. Both speakers are attorneys motivated by their faith to serve those in the greatest need and work to help people with employment, domestic violence, healthcare, housing and financial issues.