Students, Community Honor Martin Luther King

By Scot Sarvay
By Rachel Martin

January 16, 2012 Updated Jan 17, 2012 at 12:20 AM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – While most people in Northeast Indiana celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday by having the day off, others celebrated through local celebrations of song and service.

If Dr. King were alive today, he'd be 83-years-old, and be able to see how much of a reality his dream has become.

Manchester College, in North Manchester, Ind., was the last college Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. visited before his assassination in 1968. To celebrate, Manchester College Campus Ministry and The Office of Cultural Affairs sponsored a student-produced play called, “Our Eyes on Economic Justice.” The play centered around dinner at Dr. King’s house and the characters had “a hypothetical conversation about the dream of Dr. King,” and featured world leaders from the past and present. The leaders included Hugo Chavez, Golda Meir, Winston Churchill, Kofi Annan, Aung Suu Kyi, and Dred Scott. Benjamin Tapper, Programmer with Multicultural Affairs, co-wrote the play specifically for the holiday.

“Having these world leaders talk about issues that were domestic, that were international, that dealt with interpersonal relations, race relations—having them cover the gambit, really tied into the core of his [Dr. King’s] message,” Tapper said.

Wallace Butts, Jr. a Senior at Manchester, played Dr. King. This is the second time he’s played Dr. King during his time at Manchester. He says to play such a role requires a lot of studying and describes the civil rights activist as “empowering.”

“He was a very, very strong leader, but he had lots of people behind him. To get people behind him, he had to do a lot of empowering,” Butts said. “Looking at the clips of certain interviews he did online, he was very strategic in getting people involved. With that, if you want to get something done, you got to get people on your side.”

Earlier Monday, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Club of Fort Wayne hosted the 27th Annual Unity Day Celebration. It was a day-long celebration beginning with a breakfast banquet at the Courtyard by Marriot hotel in downtown Fort Wayne. The event then moved over to the Grand Wayne center where there 40 merchandise and information vendors, a Gospel Expo, Community Service Awards, and the High School MLK Scholarship Awards. Bennie Edwards, President of the club says they call it the “Unity” celebration because they want everyone to attend, and the $5 admission ensures that.

“We want to keep the dream alive. His ideas, his motivations, and we all celebrate the dream, the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King,” Edwards said. “That's our motivation, to share with Fort Wayne, return something to Fort Wayne, and make sure we all remember.”

Not too far from downtown at Charis House, nusring, physical therapy, and cosmetology students from the University of St. Francis used their day off from classes for community service.

“Martin Luther King Day—he was all about service and giving back to the community. The campus is a day ‘on’, not a day ‘off’. We don't have classes today, but we organized a lot of activities,” said Lorie Lucas, Nursing Instructor at USF. “We're very service-oriented at the University of St. Francis and this is just one way to show that.”

Students treated Charis House residents to hair and nail services, games and crafts, and brought in a Zumba instructor from Hicksville, Ohio for Zumba classes. Lucas says many other USF students were serving at the Rescue Mission, the Boys & Girls Club and making blankets and pillows to give to children in need.

But no matter how each person celebrated, all agreed these MLK Day activities reflected the character of the man with a dream.

“Dr. King’s message was simply about love,” Tapper said. “If love prevails, equality will prevail.”

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