Hundreds of people attended Tennessee State University’s annual convocation on Monday to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Despite the bitterly cold temperature, quite a few people turned out for the march that started in front of Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist and ended at TSU’s Gentry Complex, where the convocation was held. The keynote speaker was MSNBC political analyst and author, Joy-Ann Reid.
TSU President Glenda Glover set the tone for the convocation in her greetings.
“We’re here because we understand if ever there was a time that we needed each other, that time is now,” said Glover, who is also the international president of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, the primary sponsor of this year’s convocation.
“We honor Dr. King and those leaders that he inspired to continue the struggle for equality.”
Reid echoed Glover’s sentiment in her speech when she said people need to continue fighting for racial justice, economic justice, and not just recite King’s speeches.
“We have to ask ourselves, what have we done with this legacy?” said Reid. “America right now needs to get motivated, not to quote King, but to live the dream he was fighting for.”
The convocation was attended by community leaders and lawmakers, including Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper, and his brother, Nashville Mayor John Cooper.
“What he hoped for his not complete,” said Lee. “We, being here today, continue that dream that he had that isn’t finished in this country.”
On Saturday, TSU hosted the MLK Joint Day of Service with seven other universities and colleges. More than 700 students gathered in Kean Hall before being bused to various locations throughout Nashville to volunteer as part of the annual event.
Students enjoyed an early lunch before being greeted by university leaders and hearing Freedom Rider and TSU Alum Ernest ‘Rip’ Patton share inspiring words about his experience as a civil rights activist.
“This is your day, and this is your time to make a change because what we did in the 60s, we did if for generations to come,” said Patton
Brittanie Pruitt, a sophomore nursing major from Covington, Tennessee, who returned after participating in the Day of Service last year, said community service is critical.
“It’s definitely important to give back. Everybody needs a helping hand,” said Pruitt, who spent her afternoon with a group of 25 volunteers organizing classrooms at Harvest Hands Community Development, a nonprofit organization that provides after-school programming in South Nashville. “You might need help one day, so it’s always important to give back.”
Shirley Nix-Davis is director of outreach for TSU’s Center for Service Learning and Civic Engagement and co-chair of the Day of Service. She said 326 of 715 students who signed up for the event were TSU students.