Aim to Change

Students march from the GUC atrium to Baptist Campus Ministries Jan. 13 singing “We Shall Overcome” after the Martin Luther King, Jr. program.

Students united Jan. 13 for a program and march in remembrance of Civil Rights Activist Martin Luther King, Jr. who advocated for change and sparked a nonviolent revolution that made a difference across the world, said Allison Ray, student adviser of the Student Multicultural Advisory Committee.

King, who would have turned 83 Jan. 15, inspired SMAC’s overall goal for the 2011-2012 year, which is “Aim to Change” and to motivate students into racial awareness through multicultural education. The program and march, sponsored by SMAC and Baptist Campus Ministries, were a step in that direction, said Ray.

“I feel like Martin Luther King’s relevancy today is greater than it has ever been as far as standing up for our rights and standing up for what we believe in and doing so in a peaceful and nonviolent way,” she said. “We had a great response, and I’m excited to see how students take Dr. King’s ideas and beliefs and apply them in their own lives.”

The keynote speaker of the program was Rod Sheppard, UNA alumnus and president of Florence Freshman Center. He discussed how King became a change agent at the age of 27 and how UNA students can create their own path in order to make a change in society.

“We can all be a king, be like (Martin Luther King) and can all make differences with the people we come in contact with,” Sheppard said.

Sheppard said people should consider how King would feel about society’s progress toward racial equality if he were alive today-and strive to make positive contributions in their own communities and within the lives of others.

“If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything,” he said. “Make sure you understand what respect actually means, in terms of respect for yourself and for other people you come in contact with. Carry yourself in a way that you have character and treat other people the way you would want to be treated.”

The Martin Luther King, Jr. program included a live reading of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech with a range of students from different races and backgrounds. The Chinese Student Organization also performed a Tai Chi dance routine.

Ascending Voices and UNA Chamber Choir provided music at the event with soulful religious melodies and an a capella rendition of U2’s “MLK.”

Ralph Akalonu, UNA senior and president of the Student Government Association, said the event offered a new perspective about racial equality and King’s life work. He said many racial issues that King fought against during his lifetime still exist today.

“I think this is the kind of program that reminds everyone of the legacy of the person we are celebrating and what he stood for in his life in terms of equality,” he said. “It is important not only for UNA students but for everyone to celebrate. If you look at the origins of what (King) was fighting for, you can still find those current in the world today.”

The Martin Luther King, Jr. program ended with a march toward racial awareness and equality from the GUC atrium to Baptist Campus Ministries. Students, faculty and staff joined together to sing “We Shall Overcome” in celebration of King’s accomplishments as a Civil Rights leader.

King was assassinated April 4, 1968 outside of the Lorriane Motel in Memphis after approximately 15 years of leadership in the Civil Rights Movement. Sheppard said it’s important to keep King’s message fresh in the minds of young people today.

“To be able to aim to change, to make change, we have to know where we’re going, have to have a sense of direction, and have to be able to come together so we can live life and live out the creeds of Dr. King,” Sheppard said.