By Derrick Jean-Baptiste
Monday, Jan. 16 marks the thirty second remembrance of a legacy that has broken down a number of social barriers. This legacy continues to have a lasting impact on the lives of millions of Americans and millions more around the world. This is the legacy of one Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. King’s legacy is honored because he stood for not only African-Americans but also for all people, including the disadvantaged and impoverished, and believed in the power that unified society and celebrated differences not condemn them.
One of Dr. King’s most prized beliefs was a socialized ideal of working together to create a loving community. A community in which all people would work together, despite the historical divides that have been socially constructed through race, gender, religion and economic class. A community that would work to diminish those divisive powers and work in unity towards making the world a better place.
In order to honor King’s legacy, Florida Southern College hosted its annual MLK day of impact presented by the Evett L. Simmons Center for Multicultural Appreciation, Florida Southern’s Student Government and Florida Southern College’s Center for Student Involvement.
Generally Speaking, the MLK day of impact an annual two part event that is open to everyone in the Florida Southern community. The first part of the event focuses on a guest speaker lecturing on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and how that legacy is enacted in a positive manner.
Before the event began, the occupants in the the room were led in prayer by FSC’s own Dr. Brian Hamilton assistant professor of religion . After the prayer concluded something miraculous occurred as a wave of individuals poured into the room filling all of the originally placed tables. Over ten more tables were rolled out in order to occupy the now packed Thrift Alumni Room. Making this one of the most populated MLK Day of Impact with over 168 students swiping in, and many more walking in once the swiping stations were down.
Once everyone was fed and settled down, the Mistress of Ceremonies, Dana Wright, took to the podium to introduce a special segment to the proceedings. Instead of having one speaker recite Dr. King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech. The minds behind the event decided to try the risky movie of having multiple students chosen in random to recite the speech in succession.
“We did the speech in this way because we wanted to showcase that Dr. King’s speech has had an effect on everyone’s lives, regardless of walk of their backstory.” Danielle Sutherland, Senior Graphic Design Major, and MSC President, said when asked why they decided to proceed down this risky path. “We also felt that this was the best way to get everyone involved with multiple parts of the event.”
With the final sentences of the storied speech recited by Jennell Retamar a Junior Communication Major, the speaker was finally presented to the audience.
The speaker for the Day of Impact was, Florida Southern College class of 2000 graduate, Dr. Booker T. Hodges. Dr. Hodges is a twelve year law enforcement professional who has had multiple jobs in the law enforcement sector. Jobs which included school resource officer, patrol deputy, SWAT operative and narcotics detective, and currently Hodges serves as a chief inspector at the Ramsey County Sheriff’s office.
Throughout his speech, Dr. Hodges reflected on the life of Dr. King and how its legacy has continued to impact many things, including the law enforcement sector. The speaker focused on character and the idea that, we as humans must focus on being individuals of good character rather than trying to prove that one is better than another.
After introducing the idea of character within this context Dr. Hodges began to tell the story of what his Sheriff department is doing to live up to Dr. King’s legacy.
Within the Ramsey County Sheriff’s office they have changed there hiring process from one based on solely skill to a more character based hiring style.
“You can teach anyone how to be a cop but, you can’t teach good character.” Dr. Hodges said as he explained just why the Ramsey County Sheriff’s office has changed there hiring process so significantly.
With the conclusion of Dr. Hodges speech, Dr. Anne Kerr was called to the podium to speak a few words. The crux of Dr. Kerr’s speech delved into the idea that we as a society are stronger if we accept our differences as unifiers that could bring us together, if we were to accept that we were different.
With that Dr. Kerr introduced the Day of Impact guest artist Tatiana Montilla, junior, vocal performance major. Montilla went on to perform Dr. King’s favorite gospel spiritual “Precious Lord Take My Hand.”
“It was extremely hard to psych myself up for singing this song in front of so many people.” Montilla said, when asked about her performance. “Overall I’d say this was a positive experience that i’m glad I was able to take part in.”
Following the celebration of Dr. King, a collection of student volunteers formed a large group to help pack food for Kidspack. Kidspack is a nonprofit organization supported by community leaders and concerned citizens with a core of volunteers dedicated to feeding homeless and hungry children in Polk County and beyond.
Four different stations were set up in order to accomplish this monumental task. The first station was set up in order to section off the individual foods into seperate complete meals. The second station was filled by movers, who would simply move the completed meal sets to another table in order to decrease the clutter. The third group wrapped the meals with seran wrap and placed them in boxes. Finally, the fourth and final group took the completed boxes and loaded them to an awaiting Kidspack truck.
Due to the rousing support of the FSC students in attendance, the Day of Impact celebrations were able to create and pack over 900 meals for children. Once that news was announced to the room, the students working diligently broke out in raucous jubilee.
One final surprise awaited the students in attendance to the Day of Impact event. Announced by Caitlin Johnson, Student Government Community and Public Relations Vice President. FSC’s student government with the help of Kidspack will be sponsoring five children. These children will no longer have to worry about missing significant meals for the foreseeable future.
MLK Day of Impact is one of many service opportunities held on Florida Southern’s campus.