WCC Jazz Faculty band members (from left) Duane Wells, Steve Somers and Julius Tompkins perform in front of an image of Martin Luther King Jr., during the college’s observance of MLK Day. Photo by Lynn Monson

WCC Jazz Faculty band members (from left) Duane Wells, Steve Somers and Julius Tompkins perform in front of an image of Martin Luther King Jr., during the college’s observance of MLK Day. Photo by Lynn Monson

Martin Luther King Jr. remembered, honored

Every year on the third Monday of January, people from all walks of life come together to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the man who sacrificed so much, including his own life, to lead the movement toward ending racial segregation in the U.S. and ensuring freedom for all.

This year was no different.

On Thursday, Jan. 14, Washtenaw Community College students, faculty, staff, and community members gathered on the second floor of the Student Center building to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day a few days early.

The day’s festivities kicked off with a high-energy musical performance by the WCC Jazz Faculty Band, along with a rendition of the college’s 50th anniversary song, “Opening Doors” by the WCC Chamber Singers.

Taking the stage to share her thoughts on what Dr. King’s remarkable contributions mean in today’s society was WCC President Dr. Rose B. Bellanca.

“I think that Dr. King would be very proud of this celebration and of the work we do here at Washtenaw Community College. He would be proud of the diversity that weaves throughout the fabric of our college,” Bellanca said. “This diversity is what gives our students a sound, rich and nuanced education, which propels them to reach their educational hopes and dreams.”

Next was a poignant spoken word piece titled, “I Believe” performed by Corzetta Tillman, a former WCC student and soon-to-be graduate of Eastern Michigan University.

Keynote speaker Thornton Perkins delivers his message to the gathering. Photo by Lynn Monson

Keynote speaker Thornton Perkins delivers his message to the gathering. Photo by Lynn Monson

WCC faculty member Dr. Thornton Perkins, who teaches history, then delivered the keynote address and took the audience on a trip through Civil Rights history, including a personal anecdote about a trip to the South to visit relatives. It was there where his grandfather had to explain to him why blacks couldn’t swim in public swimming pools that were signed “Whites Only.”

“MLK Day is an opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come and how much closer we are to Dr. King’s dream,” he said.

What does MLK Day mean to people? “Dr. King is the reason why students of different races, ethnicities and faiths can all sit in the same classroom together,” said Morgan Foreman, a former WCC student, who also served as the event’s emcee.

“We all have a responsibility to champion Dr. King’s spirit and to keep the dream alive in whatever way we can,” she said.

One of the most touching moments came when Foreman, Tillman, and WCC sophomore Davon Shackleford took the podium and each recited parts of Dr. King’s iconic, “I Have a Dream” speech. The event also included the reading of “thought bubbles” turned in by students, staff and faculty who shared their dreams and hopes for the future.

Former WCC students Morgan Foreman and Corzetta Tillman and WCC sophomore Davon Shackleford recite parts of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech. Photo by Lynn Monson

Former WCC students Morgan Foreman and Corzetta Tillman and
WCC sophomore Davon Shackleford recite parts of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech. Photo by Lynn Monson

Although it’s been 53 years since Dr. King uttered those famous words to a crowd of 250,000 people on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, most at the WCC event agreed that the fight is far from over.
“Our society and educational institutions have always stressed the importance of tolerance for individuals around us, but merely tolerating your neighbor will never move this society in the direction of the togetherness Dr. King so desperately called for,” said psychology major Tiara Terrell Westley-Phillips. She also performed with the WCC Chamber Singers.

“When you move to understand the differences of the people around you, that is when you see the similarities, and move this society towards love.”

By Princess Gabbara

Writer, Public Relations