The Dream Lives on at Rollins

January 24, 2012

During the memorial vigil, keynote speaker Fairolyn Livingston discusses the history of the College's relationship with Hannibal Square. (Photo by David Noe)

Throughout the week that would have been his 83rd birthday, the Rollins community paid tribute to the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. The celebration, titled Be the Dream, began on Monday, January 16 with a commemorative vigil, continued through a series of uplifting and inspiring events, and culminated on Saturday, January 21, with a performance by The Gospel for Teens Choir.

On Monday, students, faculty, staff, and members of the surrounding community congregated in the Knowles Memorial Chapel to celebrate the legacy of one of our nation’s most influential social activists. At 6:01 p.m.—the exact time of King’s assassination—a moment of silence was observed while the chapel bells tolled.

DREAM Act Rally
The Rollins and local communities gather at the Cornell Campus Center for a rally in support of the DREAM Act and in-state tuition for undocumented citizens. (Photo by Jonathan Perry ’13)

During the vigil, keynote speaker Fairolyn Livingston reflected on what King’s dream continues to mean for her and the community. Having spent her youth in Winter Park’s segregated community for African Americans, Livingston, who is the manager and staff historian of the Hannibal Square Heritage Center, was directly influenced and encouraged by the ever-improving relationship between Rollins and the Hannibal Square community. “The diverse and accepting culture that Rollins fosters is one that becomes instilled in its students, who take these lessons wherever they go,” she said. “I wish for these students to be conscious of who they are and realize the power in relationships and the importance of service, learning, and volunteering.”

The rest of week’s events offered students and community members opportunities to learn, take action, and come together. Two screenings of the critically acclaimed film The Help, based on the #1 New York Times best seller by Kathryn Stockett, were shown on Rollins campus and were followed by a faculty-facilitated discussion about the characters’ ability to create change during a time of intense social prejudice. In addition, a student-led rally supporting the legislative proposal, the DREAM Act, which advocates for in-state tuition for undocumented citizens, featured speeches and performances by local activists.

The Gospel for Teens Choir from Harlem, New York
The Gospel for Teens Choir perform at the Alfond Sports Center. (Photo by Jonathan Perry ’13)

The final celebration featured a concert titled Sing Alleluia by the Gospel for Teens Choir from Harlem, New York. Creating an atmosphere akin to a religious revival, the choir’s contagious energy echoed throughout the Alfond Sports Center. Led by legendary writer, producer, and champion of civil rights Vy Higginsen, the performance featured both inspirational music and the teaching of motivational life lessons.

“Music has a unique way of bringing cultures together,” preached Higginsen. “Music helps us to understand how ridiculous the issue of color is to humanity and character. Gospel music especially teaches us to balance mind and emotion, intelligence and love, which is exactly what Martin Luther King, Jr. stood for.”

The annual MLK celebration week truly epitomized the mission and commitment to diversity that is Rollins. “This celebration provided the Office of Multicultural Affairs an opportunity to work with every corner of our campus in many different capacities,” commented Rollins Director of Multicultural Affairs Mahjabeen Rafiuddin, who orchestrated the events. “I am thankful to everyone involved, including the many student and community organizations, who made this our college-wide signature diversity program.”

Check out the Gospel for Teens Choir's performance.

By Justin Braun

Office of Marketing & Communications
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