Manchester University
Oak Leaves

February 16, 2018

Reverend Speaks at MLK 50th Anniversary Celebration 

Ciara Knisely

The Manchester community celebrated the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s visit to Manchester University on February 1, 2018 in Cordier Auditorium during the annual MLK Remembrance and Rededication Service. Campus welcomed a variety of alumni fortunate enough to meet Dr. King in 1968, as well as a live band in tribute to King’s message and keynote speaker Reverend Dr. Otis Moss III.

After an introductory performance from Chris Ford & Power of Praise, alumnus Myron Chenault ’71 spoke on stage about his experience as one of six African American students at Manchester in 1968 and how profoundly Dr. King’s visit impacted him. For reference, Chenault gave context about ongoing social issues relevant at the time, such as the war in Vietnam, the Women’s Movement, and the lowest poverty level since the Great Depression.

According to Chenault, Dr. King spoke of the destructive nature of hatred, saying, “‘Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.’” Similarly, Chenault spoke of Dr. King’s dedication to forgiveness, acceptance and moral duty.

Dr. King’s conception between science and religion was also a topic of discussion. As Chenault said, Dr. King stressed that the two were not rivals, and should not be treated as such. Dr. King’s Christianity was also a driving force in his practice, following the notion that kindness is more powerful than hate.

Sue Wells ’70 Livers spoke of how Dr. King’s work and visit has played a central role in her own personal values and actions throughout her lifetime. In 1968, dressed in an outfit she had made herself, Livers stated she was the only person of color in her class and that Dr. King had completely ‘mesmerized’ her with his passion for human rights.

Livers recalled powerful memories from her life and childhood as an African American, such as her memory of a friend’s brother who drowned in the newly integrated community pool because no one saved him, and her first experience with integration in the classroom in the fourth grade.

Chris Ford & Power of Praise then performed with their song “No One Else,” which commented on the power and jealousy of God.

Next, student body president of 1968 Steve Stone ’69 spoke. He introduced himself as an ordained minister and touched on the 20+ members of his extended family that are Manchester graduates. Among many things, Stone referenced the common thought that race relations are not any better than the 1960s, which he claimed was untrue due to the progress and steps toward equality enacted since 1968.

The final alumni speaker to present on stage was Jo Young ’69 Switzer, president emerita, who also had the opportunity to meet with Dr. King as a student in 1968. She recalled the moments during lunch with Dr. King, when he listened and asked the students questions about their thoughts on racial issues, said Switzer. Dr. King asked what the students had been doing to engage the community and create progressive dialogue.

The presentation concluded with an impassioned speech from keynote speaker Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Moss began with prayer and a gospel according to Mark about the “messenger to prepare the way.” Moss centered his speech around appreciating those who have similarly prepared a way for others, the way Dr. King did with human rights for African Americans, and encouraged the audience to act in the same manner.

“We stand upon the shoulders of others,” Moss stated, calling for the audience to remember those who are vulnerable and to “prepare a way” for those who need advocacy.

Moss also added the importance of claiming personal identity, and asked the audience to “recognize that you are the best you” and to “be who you have been called to be.” The crowd gave a generous round of applause for Moss’s evident passion toward respecting diversity.

The Manchester alumni speakers stressed the importance of continuing Dr. King’s legacy. “Nothing would be more tragic to stop at this point,” stated Livers. “Being with him fifty years ago was a clarion to become more active and more involved in the history of this nation. It’s up to us to make a difference.”

Similarly, Stone commented that “racism is like cancer” and praised but challenged Manchester to maintain the goal of diversity, 15% of the student body as African American students, coaches, staff, and faculty, to integrate black authors and scholars, to include black literature in history in Manchester’s discourse, to raise funds to support those who face social obstacles, and to continue working with foreign nations to bring students abroad.