January 20, 2015
The chilling cold weather at 38 degrees did not stop people from filling up the seats at Gettysburg College, Christ Chapel. It was the 35th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration and like they do yearly, the community of Gettysburg came once again to pay their respect to the Civil Rights leader and his work, during the event hosted by Gettysburg College and the Center For Public Service (CPS).
The ceremony organized by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Committee, which raises money throughout the year for the Adams County Career Aid Project (ACCAP), to help low-income and adults of Adams County, began with a Jazz concert presented by the Biglerville High School Jazz Band, an ensemble that has helped serenade the occasion over the years.
Gettysburg College President, Dr. Janet Morgan Riggs, welcomed the audience and expressed appreciation for the work of the organizing committee and all those who work tirelessly to make the event happen. The College Chaplain, Rev. Dr. Joseph Donnella, presented the invocation after the processional song “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” rendered by the Morgan State University Choir also present to grant the occasion.
The night went on with a presentation of the Living The Dream Award, to Judy and Bill Leslie, for their volunteer work in the community through teaching ESL and for helping some adult immigrants get through citizenship process and path to naturalization for their children among other contributions.
Also recognized was Sharon Madrigal, a student at Harrisburg Area Community College, who received the ACCAP award for her work in the community. After the award, Morgan State University Choir presented the Offertory music and for the first time, the audience heard Dr. King’s “I have A Dream” speech in the context of a song by the choir.
The Keynote speaker Jay Smooth, was announced by Zakiya Brown, a 2015 graduate of Gettysburg College who rose to cheers from her colleagues as she was called to welcome Mr. Smooth, the founder and host of New York City’s longest running hip-hop radio program, WBAI’s “The Underground Railroad,” launched in 1991 when he was a teenager.
Smooth in his brief and precise speech, encouraged the audience to embrace conversation about race despite the challenges and not shy away from supporting the movements mounted by today’s youths to improve race relations.
In reference to the movement led by Dr. King, Smooth described the Civil Rights leader as a man who despite his work to end racial intolerance, faced criticism by his own people and in protest, they “pelted him with eggs” as he walked the streets of Harlem, while visiting New York in the 60s because they believed Dr. King had done less to alleviate the sufferings.
Smooth challenged the audience by saying the only way to remember Dr. King’s work, is to support the new generation and movements in their efforts to end present racial divide.
The chapel rose to a roar as Smooth ended the speech and with the audience holding hands across the aisle, everyone sang and danced to “We Shall Overcome,” the iconic civil rights song, led by Morgan State University Choir.
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