Averett University honors MLK Day with Community Supper, Day of Service and Candlelight Vigil

Posted on January 18th, 2017 by Danielle Staub

31508960754_0f217432fb_oAverett University hosted multiple events surrounding the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday this year. The Center for Community Engagement and Career Competitiveness (CCECC) organized the activities focusing on one theme, “What Will You Stand For?” The goal was to celebrate the stories and the people who demonstrated a true commitment to their beliefs and stood up in the face of injustice.

“Averett has a responsibility to the community to model the way. By engaging with the community on a day with such significance honoring Dr. King, it should only be natural to us to provide opportunities for not only our community at Averett, but also to others to serve,” said Alexis Ehrhardt, executive director of the Center for Community Engagement and Career Competitiveness at Averett.

Starting on Sunday, members of the community, Averett students, faculty and staff were invited to share a meal and meaningful conversation at America’s Sunday Supper. Everyone was spilt into different groups and a facilitator helped direct the conversation with questions such as, “Why should we care about history?” and “What have you learned about someone else at your table?”America's Sunday Supper

“My motivation for coming was to meet with others that have the same passion and concern that I have and I was hoping it would provide an opportunity to talk,” Holbrook Street Presbyterian Church’s pastor, Ron Johnson, said.

Pastor Johnson was a facilitator at the supper and says he left feeling better about his community.

“It’s good to know you are not alone. We are all in this thing. Sometimes it can feel like we are kind of isolated but we are not. We have a common goal. We are interested in helping the place that we live and raise our families. We want it to move forward. We all want a good place to live,” Johnson said.

On Monday, the University hosted a MLK Day of Service, partnering with Danville Community College 31974306970_5019dbb3fa_o(DCC). Chris Pantazis, instructor of biology at DCC, brought students from his biology classes and Martha Tucker, associate professor of early childhood development and developmental reading at DCC, brought her students who make up the TEACH Club. Both groups participated in and led projects throughout the Day of Service.

“You get to remember how he (Martin Luther King Jr.) fought for civil rights and how he made it possible,” said Elizabeth Escalanet, a freshman volunteer from DCC. “Just taking 10 minutes out of my day to better a kid’s life is worth it.”

Volunteers from the community, Dan River Year AmeriCorps, Averett and DCC students, faculty and staff, helped make more than 10,000 meals for Stop Hunger Now, valentines for vets, children’s books and scarves for the elderly and children in need.

32351058955_c6e1c28a38_oElementary, middle and high school students from the Danville and Pittsylvania County community participated in an MLK art and story contest. Averett and DCC students participated in a photography contest. The winners were announced by Averett University’s president, Dr. Tiffany M. Franks.

Blair Bolton, a junior at Averett, came in first place for her photograph.

“I was looking online to get some inspiration when I came across a photo of the courthouse in the 1960s. I wanted to be able to picture it, so I drove to the courthouse. I was trying to place it and then, it was crazy. I thought, this is how it was in the 1960s and I could still see it here today,” Bolton said. “On MLK Day, our community needs to help and rely on each other. Anything we can do to help out our classmates, co-workers and neighbors is important.”

The University wrapped up the MLK events with a candlelight vigil in the Blount Chapel, a new event this year. University chaplain, Reverend Skyler Daniel, gave the invocation, and students led the crowd though the call to remembrance, affirmation of faith and prayers of the people. The service ended with participants singing “Amazing Grace,” led by Dr. Anne Lewis, professor of music, before the lighting of candles and a moment of silence.

The guest speaker, Danville City Manager Ken Larking, focused on the city’s history and core values, Candlelight vigilhighlighting those of diversity and inclusiveness.

“As the city government, the city manager, we will not stand for discrimination of any kind towards each other or members of the community. My fellow department heads and members of City Council share that same conviction,” Larking said.

“While 2016 may be a time that is more equitable than it was 50 years ago, the University knows there still is so much to be done as we work towards racial, social and economic justice. So providing an opportunity for people to give back and talk to one another about this issues is felt as a step in the right direction,” Ehrhardt said.