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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Convocation

Gilman students, faculty, and staff gathered — some in person in the Alumni Auditorium and most virtually — for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Convocation on Thursday, January 13.

Johnnie Foreman, Director of Community, Inclusion, and Equity, gave welcoming remarks, reflecting on when he was in high school at the time of Dr. King’s assassination. He was grateful that we could come together as a community to celebrate the life of this legend.

Arden Lawson, co-chair of the Black Student Union, led the invocation, followed by the singing of the national anthem by the Traveling Men (T-Men).

Headmaster Henry P. A. Smyth took to the podium next, paying tribute to Desmond Tutu, a religious leader who was the first Black African to be named the archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa. Tutu, who passed away just a few weeks ago, along with Nelson Mandela, “was widely regarded as the most important leader in the movement to oppose and tear down the system of aparthide,” Smyth explained. In 2009, Tutu was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Next, the T-Men performed “Down to the River to Pray.”

Co-chairs of the CIE Council Wesley DeCosta and Matthew Grossman introduced returning keynote speaker, Dr. Anthony L. Jenkins, president of Coppin State University. Jenkins’ address focused on Dr. King’s dream and to those who fought in the civil rights movement.

“There’s no question that Dr. King had bold, ambitious goals for our nation,” Jenkins said. “We can no longer put the challenges we face today off until tomorrow. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. … This is no time for apathy or complacency. … The question is not are we equipped to make a difference. The question is do we possess the courage, the commitment, and the character to engage.”

Jenkins challenged those watching: “In the spirit of Dr. King, I challenge each of you to start thinking of your legacy, and the impact that you want to have at Gilman, in the community, across our state, and throughout the nation.” He continued, “Nothing you do in life will be more powerful than your example.”

Co-chair of the Black Student Union Jalen Marshall spoke about the history of what’s often referred to as the Black national anthem. “For more than 100 years, ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ has been a staple musical celebration of Black excellence and pride in finding ways to survive and thrive in America.” The T-Men concluded with a moving performance of the song.

Watch the full convocation here.


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