The Georgetown community celebrated the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., in a night of songs, dance and speech yesterday evening in Gaston Hall. Ellen Nelson van Bever, director of special programs in the office of the provost, who helped organize the event, said, “We tried to make it a collaborative effort on the part of the Diversity Working Group and student groups.”

Several groups were involved in the evening’s celebration, including Campus Ministry, the Black Student Alliance, the Jewish Student Alliance, the Georgetown branch of the NAACP, the Diversity Working Group, the Black House and GUSA.

The celebration was opened with a prayer by the Georgetown University senior Jewish chaplain, Rabbi Harold White, who met artin Luther King Jr., on several occasions. Included in his prayer was a quote from book five of the Biblical prophet Amos, “Let justice roll down as the waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.” White said that Amos was one of King’s favorite prophets.

Next came a video, prepared by John Collier, (MSB ’01) displayed on a large screen onstage in which black and white photos and video clips of King and the civil rights movement were shown. A voiceover consisting of clips from King’s speeches was played during the film.

Crystal Tomlin (NUR ’02) then welcomed the audience and conveyed the night’s theme, “The Legacy Lives On … ,” urging audience members to, “empower yourself to both make a change personally and collectively.”

Next, the Georgetown University Gospel Choir and the Charles H. Houston Magnet School Youth Gospel Choir led the audience in a rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

Shaina Jones (SFS ’03), vice president of the Black Student Alliance, then delivered the reflection. She encouraged the audience not to forget King’s efforts to “move toward economic equality” and not to overlook all of those who stood beside and behind him in his quest. She also noted that, “social and racial injustice have not disappeared,” from our society, they have simply become more subtle, and mentioned the alleged disenfranchisement of many African-American voters in the recent presidential election. Jones emphasized that King’s legacy “only continues if we choose to carry it on.”

Georgetown University’s Black Movements Dance Theater performed two modern dance routines to the songs “Free” and “Lift Every Voice.” They were followed by the Georgetown University Gospel Choir, directed by Derek Campbell, which sang “Freedom is Coming” and “The Lord is my Shepherd.”

President of the Georgetown NAACP, Michaela Brown (COL ’03) then introduced the keynote speaker, Conan Louis, who holds three different degrees from Georgetown University. Louis spoke on the topic of leadership, listing the qualities he believes are most important in a leader, separating the great leaders from the good leaders, qualities which he sees as embodied in King. The qualities he listed include: “A willingness to listen … a desire to serve … a vision and the ability to articulate that vision persuasively … true compassion for the circumstances and well being of others … the ability to form strategic alliances and the will to go it alone if necessary … a willingness to take risks … passion for a cause … the ability and willingness to support compromise,” and the possession of certain principles which one will not compromise.

He quoted from books written about King and spoke about how far Georgetown University has come in terms of being a diverse school, including possessing national leadership in producing lawyers. He cautioned that there is still a long way to go, however, citing incidents of intolerance at Georgetown and other universities around the nation.

Louis expressed his pleasure that president-elect George Bush’s cabinet will surely be the most diverse cabinet in the history of the United States, and that an African-American would hold the most powerful position in that cabinet. Louis concluded his speech by saying that he believes diversity to be important because of what it contributes to our sense of self. He emphasized the need to celebrate diversity, ending with a quote from King.

Louis earned his undergraduate degree in applied linguistics from Georgetown in 1973, his masters in social linguistics in 1978 and a law degree from the Georgetown Law School in 1986. During his time at Georgetown, Louis also founded the Black House, served as president of the Black Student Alliance and vice president of the Alumni Association. He is currently a member of the Alumni Advisory Board and is acting as a private consultant.

After the Youth Choir sang again, the whole audience stood and joined hands singing “We Shall Overcome.” The evening’s closing prayer was delivered by Georgetown’s uslim Chaplain, Imam Yahya M. Hendi. Although in previous years there has been only one event in honor of King, this year the Diversity Working Group is sponsoring an entire week of events commemorating King, which will continue through Jan. 26. This was partially due to the fact that there were many groups who wished to participate in the celebration, as well as the number of varied ideas for events which would celebrate King’s birthday.

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