University hosts celebration of MLK


Estie Pyper | The BucknellianProfessor Arthur Flowers, key note speaker from Syracuse, pays tribute to King.
Estie Pyper | The Bucknellian
Professor Arthur Flowers, key note speaker from Syracuse, pays tribute to King.

By Christina Oddo

Martin Luther King, Jr. used the term the “Beloved Community” to describe a non-prejudiced world in which people could share wealth, and in which people considered one another brothers and sisters. This month the University is having “A Celebration in Blue,” co-sponsored by the Griot Institute for Africana Studies, to honor Black History Month. The “Beloved” dinner started off the celebration on Jan. 28 in the Weis Center for the Performing Arts lobby.

According to Caesar Vulley ’15, a student speaker at the event, both the lives and goals of Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King, Jr. involved the definition of success as having little to do with themselves and more to do with working for the good of others.

“I was of the opinion that, while these are valid life goals, the Beloved Community that Dr. King sacrificed his life for cannot, and will not, be sustained if we continue to think only about ourselves and little about how we can make positive impacts in the lives of those around us,” Vulley said. “I developed this opinion after I came across the quote from Mother Teresa that said ‘A life is not worth living unless it is lived for others.’”

The event included a talk by keynote speaker Arthur Flowers from Syracuse University. Caesar Vulley ’15 spoke, Beyond Union performed, Oompa Williams ’13 read poetry, Mislav Forrester ’13 played the trumpet.

“I became involved through an internship I did in a detention facility last summer teaching juvenile delinquents from D.C. how to read and providing mentorship to them,” Vulley said. “I wrote an essay for the Dean when I finished the internship and shared the experience with Nancy Orbison of Residential Education. They thought my story was worth sharing, hence the invitation from Vincent Stephens, Director of MSS, to speak at the dinner.”

“It was a great event that captured the spirit of both remembering Martin Luther King, Jr. and continuing his legacy,” Beyond Unison member Allison Benoit ’13 said.

The group closed the dinner with its renditions of “Godspeed,” originally by Radney Foster, with soloist Taylor Schumann ’16, as well as “Ain’t No Sunshine,” originally by Bill Withers, with soloist Nate Fanzone ’13.

“The event was amazing,” Williams said. “From the planning to the execution of the blues theme, I think this was quite a successful commemorative Martin Luther King dinner.”

Williams found Flowers’ words remarkable and a perfect finale to the show.

“He was so powerful in explaining blues as ‘a way to get through the blues,’” Williams said. “He talked about the oral tradition as being central to the teaching and learning of the African/African-American culture. He mentioned how the western tradition of literature, and the formulaic approach to the spoken word has become important over time, and how his professional intention is to bridge the two worlds. But he emphasized and exhibited the importance of the oral tradition by not giving a lecture or a keynote speech in the western sense, but completely catering to the music and folkloric style of the African-American culture. He explained to us the way in which Martin Luther King, Jr. was completely aware of this tradition, and the way in which he embodied the blues himself.”

Williams read at last year’s dinner and was asked again to speak at this semester’s event. She wrote with the intention of seeing what would come naturally when thinking about both Martin Luther King, Jr. and the blues.

“I read an original poem that is temporarily entitled ‘Repeat’ in which I attempted to mimic the way a song is organized and cyclic in its nature,” Williams said.

Williams found Assistant Director of Community Service Lynn Pierson’s speech motivational. Pierson explained the importance of becoming involved in service projects and the necessity to keep such projects as an ongoing dedication, a lifestyle and not a one-time deal.

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