“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The above oft-cited quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. resonated with the hundreds of MTSU students and others gathered inside Keathley University Theater to again pay tribute to the legacy left by the slain civil rights activist and his late wife, Coretta Scott King.
“Show love. It’s all about love, not hate,” said Melina Datta, a sophomore public relations major from Memphis. “You can’t overcome the obstacles without love.”
Presented by the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and the MTSU Office of Intercultural and Diversity Affairs, the celebration and candlelight vigil in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day drew a diverse crowd of hundreds of students — including many representatives from student organizations — as well as some faculty, staff.
Daniel Green, the new director of the Office of Intercultural and Diversity Affairs, told the crowd that Monday night’s celebration honored a man “who brought hope and healing to America.”
The Baptist minister and leader of the civil rights movement was struck down by an assassin’s bullet on April 4, 1968, while in Memphis, Tennessee, in support of a sanitation worker’s strike.
King’s actual birthday was Jan. 15, 1929. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed into law a bill to create an official federal holiday honoring King, and in 1992, President George H.W. Bush declared that the holiday would be observed on the third Monday in January each year.
“On this day we commemorate the values that he taught us, the values that he left behind for us to embrace,” Green said. “Values of trust, courage, hope and compassion that defined his character and embodied what Dr. King stood for.
“… We have to remember that we’re all on the same boat. If one part of that boat goes down, then all of it goes down.”
Kicking off the event was a touching a cappella performance of “Glory, Glory Hallelujah” by the MTSU Generation of Praise Gospel Choir.
Other performances included: a musical tribute by saxophonist Don Aliquo, an MTSU professor of jazz studies; a musical/multimedia tribute to Coretta Scott King by MTSU music education major David Wyatt; a spoken word tribute by MTSU psychology major Trevor Johnson; and an MLK multimedia presentation followed by a candlelight vigil on the KUC knoll coordinated by the Kappa Xi Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.
In giving the keynote address, Bishop Chris Johnson, founder of Zion Christian Ministries in Murfreesboro, sprinkled heavy doses of Scripture with his message highlighting three key components of King’s philosophy: love, unity and hope.
“Part of his legacy, if lived out, would be you and I walking out that love and demonstrating that love across our cities, across our communities and across this campus, the kind of love that allows us to sit and eat with someone that doesn’t look like us,” Johnson said. “It is that kind of love that allows us to talk to someone that we wouldn’t normally talk to.”
Brian Marshall, historian for the local Omicron Sigma Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, noted that King was an Alpha Phi Alpha member who fraternity members often refer to as “brother.”
“Those same things that our organization believes and stands for are the exact same things that Martin Luther King stood for,” he said. “He loved our dear fraternity. When he went marching from Selma to Montgomery, Alpha Phi Alpha was marching with him.”
The program inside the KUC theater ended with Green leading all attendees in reciting the True Blue Pledge, before the crowd braved the frigid temperatures and gathered for the candlelight vigil outside on the KUC Knoll.
Also presenting the event was the MTSU Center for Student Involvement and Leadership. Green also thanked Housing and Residential Life for creating an MLK video that was played during the event.