It has been almost 50 years since the civil rights leader and icon Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his last speech and sermon. In generations following his death, his words continue to ring true:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Once again, faculty and staff of Purdue University Northwest (PNW) Westwille and Hammond held a breakfast and reception to honor the wisdom and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.
PNW Hammond Campus honored him on Tuesday, January 22. This time students from around the region were invited to partake in the commemoration.
“This is the twenty-fourth year of bringing the surrounding communities together to recognize the life and achievements of Martin Luther King, Jr., as we continue to pursue Dr. King’s vision of justice and equality for all,” said Laura Odom, associate director of the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and committee co-chair.
The event took place in the James B. Dworkin Student Services & Activities Complex at the Westville campus, and the Student Union & Library at the Hammond Campus. Both events were free and open to the public.
Judy Jacobi, assistant vice chancellor of University Art Collection and Special Programs at PNW, said the event takes nearly an entire year to plan.
“This is a community celebration,” Jacobi said. “We’re very happy for the support of many agencies and organizations around the area.”
The theme of this year’s celebration was “A Global Vision of Justice,” focusing on the continuing efforts to honor the MLK's legacy by fostering authenticity of thought and action, and by being true to yourself and kind to others.
The event was emceed by Dr. Karen Bishop Morris, interim dean of PNW's Honors College. Dr. Dave Pratt, Dave Farris and Roy Hamilton provided musical entertainment, with a special vocal performance by Casey (C.J. Musique) Baker.
"You must love one another and carry this global vision for justice forward," Morris said.
Gerry Jones of Michigan City, former executive director of Stepping Stone Shelter for Women, was thrilled to attend the event.
“If we just follow [MLK’s] vision, then we will truly make America great again,” Jones said. “This world was created for people—all people. Not just people from one particular region, or one particular color. It was created for all.”
The keynote speaker for 2019 was Dr. Theo Williams, whose passion for social justice issues and extensive research on topics related to Dr. King’s vision made him a natural choice to deliver this year’s address.
An associate professor of communications at Bethel College and ordained minister, Williams earned his doctorate in Communication from Regent University and a master’s in Urban Ministry from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. His academic focus on the role of communication within the process of racial reconciliation, intercultural competence and cross-cultural relationships has allowed him to speak at events around the globe.
In his keynote address, Dr. Theo Williams spoke about the importance of being true, authentic and passionate in continuing the dedication of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work every day.
“You gotta have passion. If calling is the vehicle that gets you from point A to point B, then passion would be the fuel,” Williams said. “When you’re passionate the way Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was passionate, then that passion fuels other people. Passion is hard to create. It’s hard to destroy, but you can transfer that passion."
“Somewhere along the line, Dr. King transferred his passion to us,” Williams continued. “You heard it when he spoke. You saw it when he marched. And it has outlived him. Why do you do what you do? Is it because of a paycheck? Or is it because of a calling to excellence? Know your passion.”
Following the keynote address, the audience was invited to stand, join hands and sing the powerful civil rights anthem, “We Shall Overcome.”
Premier sponsors for the event include: Purdue University Northwest Multicultural Campus Council; NIPSCO; Horizon Bank. Gold sponsors include: Michigan City Human Rights Commission; Sinai Temple; Visit Michigan City La Porte Convention and Visitors Bureau. Silver sponsors include: 1st Source Bank; Unity Foundation. Bronze sponsors include: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.; Sondra Craig; LaPorte County NAACP; Life Changes, LLC; Michigan City Commission of the Social Status of African American Males.
For more information, visit Purdue online at https://www.pnw.edu/.