Songs that had the audience clapping, a poem dedicated to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and inspiring words from keynote speaker Judge Tyyawdi Hands marked Wingate University’s MLK Jr. Celebration Thursday night in the Batte Center’s McGee Theatre. King, a civil-rights activist who was assassinated in 1968, would have turned 91 on Wednesday. The official federal holiday is Monday, Jan. 20.
In the Batte Center on Thursday, the Elizabeth Missionary Baptist Church Praise Team performed “We Worship You” and “Total Praise,” bringing many in the audience to their feet. Both selections were inspired by MLK’s strong Christian beliefs.
“We chose these songs because God has always been good, and his mercy has helped his people through the hardest times in history,” said team member Brittany Cureton. Wingate’s United in One Gospel Choir performed “Marvelous Things.”
Precious Pauling shared a poem to set the scene for Hands, who delivered her perspective on King’s values and how they relate to her observations in the courtroom. A judge for the 26th Judicial District, which includes Mecklenburg County, Hands spoke on the injustices she witnesses every day and the work that still needs to be done regarding inequality in America.
“When Judge Hands was talking about the effects of mass incarceration in America, it touched my heart and made me want to take action,” said student Elijah Henderson.
Also at the event, hosted by Wingate’s Multicultural Advisory Committee, the University handed out MLK Awards to recognize a member of the faculty, a staff member and a student who embody the civil-rights leader’s principles. Recipients of the inaugural awards were Paige Rawson, visiting assistant professor of religion; Tim Myers, outreach and support coordinator; and student Alicia Rubio.
According to Nana Wolfe-Hill, assistant professor of music, Rawson actively works to better her community. Rawson has led a group called Understanding and Dismantling Racism to discuss issues on campus and work toward equality. She has also left an impression on students, such as Dazoria Hobbs. “[Rawson] treats students like individuals with beautiful narratives rather than making assumptions by the color of their skin,” Hobbs wrote in her nomination of Rawson for the award.
Myers, who directs Wayfind, Wingate’s free-college-access and mentorship program, helps students overcome obstacles. “I nominated Tim Myers for his unwavering dedication to making a positive change in the world and for his focus on empowering future generations to rise and make their own dreams reality,” said Mary Coon, administrative assistant to the Department of Chemistry and Physics.
Rubio is president of Wingate University’s Latin American Student Association (LASA) and has worked to reshape the mission of the organization. Originally more of a social club, LASA has been rebranded as an organization that brings injustices to light. Rubio has led LASA to sponsor Lyceum events concerning undocumented immigration and issues facing the Hispanic population. During the past two years, she has also worked to develop and raise money for a scholarship for undocumented students.
“I have done my best to follow MLK’s values, centered on nonviolence and democracy, to bring light to inequalities and fight for change,” Rubio said.
Thursday’s program ended with words from Wingate University President Rhett Brown.
“Largely everything about Dr. King’s life is what we want to achieve at Wingate,” Brown said. “We want to play our own small part and present our own examples of leaders who are making a difference in today’s world and following Dr. King’s values.”
Jan. 17, 2020