MOUNT VERNON — “Where do we go from here” was the theme of the eighth annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration breakfast held Jan. 17 at Kenyon College. The event inspired and uplifted many hearts in continuing a legacy of human rights and humanitarianism.
“It was very inspiring to see leaders from the community come together and discuss the racial issues at hand with an understanding that while much has been accomplished, there is still more work to be done,” said Christian J. Hartman, a senior at MVNU.
“As an MVNU United Generations choir member it was my first time attending an MLK breakfast,” said Keisha Martinez, a freshman at MVNU. “It was a really good experience to be able to sit in and see members of the community talk about and pay tribute to Martin Luther King and the way he changed our history.”
More than 200 students, guests and community members attended the celebration. Musical selections were rendered by members of the Kenyon College Choir, as well as the MVNU Young Generations Gospel Choir.
The MVNU choir sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “Lean on Me” which, committee member Jim Singletary said, received an standing ovation and set the stage for the Rev. Josephus Foster’s speech.
Foster, a pastor of Fountain of Hope Church of the Nazarene, is executive director for Fountain of Hope Ministry of Columbus. The ministry is dedicated to the betterment and support of at-risk youth and young people of low-income status. Through its work, the ministry strives to build self-esteem, character and leadership skills in young people of the inner city.
“Rev. Foster gave a very moving speech on the topic: ‘I, too, have a dream,’ that spoke to hearts about what makes you weep and breaks your heart as you pass through life? What difference can you make along your way,” said Singletary. “His story of the eagle and chicken was inspiring about recognizing our greatness and soaring to be our best like Dr. King.”
In the speech given by Foster, he quoted, “everybody has a goal, my goal in life is to die empty, use up all my potential and make a dent in the universe. I am more than what I think I am and I can do more than I’ve already done.”
Many special guests were present during the event including Kenyon College President Dr. S. Georgia Nugent, vice president of Student Development of MVNU, Dr. Lanette Sessink, and Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Mavis.
“There were dynamic community responses from President Nugent, Dr. Sessink and Mayor Mavis on encouraging all to be inspired and to maintain the work of Dr. King,” said Singletary.
During the celebration special awards were presented to members of the community, as well as student scholarships.
The Spirit of the Vision Award winners were Gene Fields, Dr. John E. Harvey and Dr. Franklin Miller Jr. who were founders of the local NAACP in Knox County.
One of the recipients, 94-year-old Miller spoke during the award acceptance and shared his experience of the day Dr. King died.
“He allowed us to relive that tragic experience as he informed students, and how that changed his life,” said Singletary.
The fourth recipient recognized was Chris Kennerly, associate dean of students and director of multicultural affairs for Kenyon College.
Singletary regarded Kennerly as “a mover and a shaker in the present day on and off campus” for his advocacy for students.
“It is really much appreciated,” said Kennerly of his award. “Everything that I do is for the students in helping them to have a good experience at Kenyon and to be successful.”
Winners of the First-Knox National Bank Martin Luther King Book Scholarship were Nicole Coates, Jessica McCoy and Ariana Reed of Mount Vernon Nazarene University, and Nancy Troung and Ai Binh Thi Ho of Kenyon College.
Winners of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 2011 middle and high school essay contest are first place, Anna Abraham of Mount Vernon Academy; second place, Maria Hairston of Mount Vernon High School; and third place, Victoria Wendt of Mount Vernon High School. Middle school winners are, first place, Nathan Hill, second place, Beau Pruitt, and third place, Emilie Ulery, all of whom are from East Knox Middle School.
The event is coordinated each year by the Dr. King Legacy Committee.