|City, UT Martin host inaugural MLK Jr. breakfast |
|Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 12:00 pm |
| By BRAD GASKINS |
About 150 people gathered Monday morning at the University of Tennessee at Martin to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at an inaugural breakfast in his honor presented by UTM’s Black Student Association and the city of Martin.
“It is refreshing and rewarding to see so many individuals out this morning,” UTM Chancellor Dr. Tom Rakes said. “It’s also particularly appropriate that it’s a diverse group of individuals who are here, because that’s really what we’re celebrating today.”
Those in attendance enjoyed a catered breakfast and messages from several speakers.
“The dream of doing something this morning to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. eminated out of our office of minority affairs,” said David Belote, the assistant vice chancellor for student affairs who is also a Martin alderman.
Belote credited Dr. Andy Jones with coming up with the idea for the breakfast.
Reid Chandler, a seventh-grader at Martin Middle School, gave a speech about the Tuskegee airmen and their service to the country.
“They completed over 1,600 missions,” said Chandler, who turned 13 on Monday. “They deserve the upmost reverence, honor and respect, because they embodied the idea and hope that dreams can become reality.”
Keynote speeches were delivered by UTM senior Laquita Johnson and Rev. Alvin Summers, pastor of Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church.
Johnson reflected on her upbringing as a child growing up in a home where, she said, her mother was a drug user and her father was a drug dealer. She shared advice on overcoming adversity and succeeding.
“Throughout your life, many mistakes are made and many lessons are learned,” she said. “But the ability to choose a path and to make decisions to be made prosperous is solely based upon you.”
Johnson stressed confidence in oneself, no matter the odds.
“On behalf of the Black Student Association and the city of Martin, we want you to know that it is extremely important that we dream with a vision but live our lives with a purpose,” she said in closing her speech. “So to each of present in this room today, I ask you: who are you, and who will you become?”
In his speech, Summers discussed King’s famous “I have a dream speech.” Summers said there some people who believe King was referring only to those of African descent.
“But I believe given the messages of his life, he was talking about us, an American people,” Summers said.
While strides have been made toward racial equality, Summers said there’s still room for improvement.
“Weakley County is by and large a decent, wonderful place to live,” Summer said. “It’s far from what it could be.”
According to Summers, there are not enough minority teachers, government officials and workers or bank workers in Weakley County. There are not enough opportunities for kids to join sports leagues without paying a sign-up fee, he said.
“Though we have a college in the town, the education perspective of our county is a high school diploma, which means our people can only work certain kinds of jobs, which leads into economic despair,” he said. “I know I am not the only one who recognized these social disparities, but I know I am one of the few who will say them out loud.”
Johnson and Summers each received standing ovations at the end of their speeches.
Entertainment was provided was provided by the UTM Gospel Choir, and several awards honoring minority individuals who have made lasting contributions were given out.
Photos of award winners will appear in Thursday’s paper.
Published in The WCP 1.22.13