The 39th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Keynote Lecture and Award Ceremony on Wednesday highlighted the life of the famous minister, the presence of racism in America today and the best ways to continue King's legacy of fighting for justice and equality.
Gretchen Bellamy, the senior director for education, operations and initiatives in the University Office for Diversity and Inclusion, read a quote from King.
“'In a real sense, all life is interrelated. All people are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny,'" Bellamy read. "Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be."
This quote was the inspiration for this year's lecture titled I Am Because We Are: Interrelated Realities. Bellamy said the MLK Planning Committee picks the theme of the lecture each year based on what they feel will resonate most with the University community.
Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz also addressed the audience before the awards ceremony began.
"We must continue to confront our history so we can learn from that history, fuel from the learnings and move forward together," Guskiewicz said.
Rachel Tates, the director of student access and success at the University Office for Diversity and Inclusion, introduced the MLK UNC Student Scholarship next. The scholarship is meant to honor those who have embodied King's legacy through their work on- and off-campus.
Tates announced this year’s winner as Charlie Helms, Jr. The crowd erupted in applause as Helms walked onstage to accept his award.
The presentation of the scholarship was followed by the presentation of the MLK Unsung Hero Awards to two staff or faculty members who exemplified the principle of inclusion on campus. This year’s recipients were Dawna Jones and Afroz Taj.
After the award ceremony and a spoken-word performance by Ebony Readers/Onyx Theater, a performance group of the Black Student Movement, Michael Eric Dyson, Georgetown University sociology professor, author and radio host — began his lecture.
“It is extremely important to talk about on King's birthday the fundamental interrelationship between various constituencies, modalities, moments and elements that make up who we are as a University community, as a broader community in Raleigh-Durham, more broadly Chapel Hill, more broadly North Carolina, and of course this nation,” Dyson said.
After Dyson spoke on the theme of interrelated realities and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the lecture concluded with a question and answer session with Dyson, conducted by senior Shandel Menezes.
This year, a banner has been designed to hang outside the Student Union to promote the week of celebration for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Bellamy said the banner will be inspired by Dr. King's famous quote, “The time is always right to do what is right.”
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