MLK Vigil

College holds vigil to remember the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr.

In honor of Martin Luther King Day, a small group gathered in Evans Auditorium to honor the civil rights leader and reflect on how King’s legacy is still relevant today.

Before campus chaplain Ted Henry addressed the group, the attendees were given a few minutes to watch a slideshow presentation containing impactful quotes from King and foundational moments from his life.

Henry began his remarks by emphasizing that much of King’s legacy, including his most famous quotes, have been watered down. “King had a tremendous message of unity that some of us still struggle with today,” Henry said.  

He went on to share two less well-known quotes from King, one from "The Birth of a New Age," King’s address at the Fiftieth Anniversary of Alpha Phi Alpha in Buffalo in 1956, and one from the 1963 letter King sent to his followers while in a Birmingham jail.

Henry’s address focused on the current state of society, and the changes King believed were necessary to make the United States a more just and equitable place for all citizens.

“You are the ones who are going to bring change about,” Henry told the assembled students. “It could happen in your lifetime. You have to have the intestinal fortitude, the guts, to step forward and make changes.”

Justin Kitts, the dean of students, focused on the religious aspect of King’s life by reading from a sermon called “The Drum Major Instinct.” King delivered the sermon to the congregation at Ebenezer Baptist Church on Feb. 4, 1968—exactly two weeks before he was assassinated.

The sermon discusses how most people desire recognition and distinction, and want to be seen as better or superior in some way. The danger of not harnessing this “drum major instinct,” or need to be seen as great, King taught, is that it leads to pushing other people down and excluding them. However, King said that people can start pursuing a “new norm of greatness,” that equates greatness with service.

Kitts reminded students that, like King said, everyone is capable of being great because everyone is capable of serving.

Before ending the vigil with a prayer, Henry took some time to share his own experience pursuing greatness at the expense of other people. In his former career as a successful businessman, his motto was “love money, use people.” Over time, he realized that was not a positive way to live, and instead pursued a life that allowed him to use money and love people.

“If you’re alone at the top,” he said. “You’re not doing it right.”

After the vigil ended, students were invited to write down their thoughts and add them to a board that asked, “When you picture peace, what do you think of?”

Houston Martin, an Exercise Science major, shared his thoughts after the vigil: “Dr. King was a man ahead of his time. He saw the ugly truths in the world like hate, discrimination, and unfair social society to people of different skin color. If he were alive today things would be different.”

Destiny Johnson, a junior majoring in Elementary Education and a member of the Lees-McRae women’s basketball team, also attended the vigil. “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s messages have been misrepresented, especially by the African-American community,” she said. “Dr. King never wanted people to hate one another. He did not ignore racism at all, but his approach was to drown out the hate with a simple four-letter word—love. Respect and love are two attributes people must have in order to get along with one another. Personally, I want to make Dr. King's dream a vision. What dream exactly? Loving everyone despite the color of their skin and getting to know who they are before I judge them based on their outward appearance. I choose love.”

By Emily WebbJanuary 20, 2021
Campus Life