Stop dreaming. Start doing.

Dr Steve Perry addresses the audience at the MLK celebration programOne-by-one audience members at James Madison University’s 27th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration stood and turned on their candle.  The “sea of lights” illuminated students, staff, faculty and community members who came together Monday night to celebrate King’s legacy during an evening of dramatic expression, song, community awards and an inspiring keynote address. 

Michael Frempong, graduate assistant in the Center for Multicultural Student Services, led the student committee planning the evening’s program.  “Each year I've attended I learn something new about Dr. King, and the countless other leaders he worked with to bring us all one step closer to a greater society. I think this remembrance is necessary because it inspires us to continuously strive to change injustices we may presently be facing in society,” said Frempong.

The theme for this year's MLK celebration week was "The Strength of a Dream Still Leads the Way."  The planning committee wanted to highlight the word “Way” as a reference to the newly renamed Cantrell Ave. to Martin Luther King, Jr. Way.  The ceremony to commemorate the renaming took place earlier in the day at Memorial Hall followed by a march.  Calvin Walker, president of the Xi Delta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., presented Harrisonburg community member Stan Maclin with the fraternity’s annual MLK Community Service award.  Maclin is the co-chair of the committee that spearheaded the renaming of Cantrell to Martin Luther King, Jr. Way. 

The formal program also included a welcome from President Alger, performance by the Contemporary Gospel Singers and a presentation to the winners of the essay and creative expression contest for area school children. Sean Reinhart and Jayden Litten, both fourth-graders from Plains Elementary School, brought the audience to their feet after reading excerpts of their essays on King.

Challenging Keynote

Dr. Steve Perry, founder and principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Ct., started his keynote address clarifying a tweet he had posted earlier in the day that stated “We’re going to have fun tonight JMU.”  Perry told the audience, “The kind of fun we’re going to have will challenge us to be better than we ever have been before.”

According to Perry, Capital Prep is successful in sending 100 percent of its low-income, first-generation graduates to college because the school imposes high expectations on every student and infuses their environment with love.  “No matter who comes through our doors, the person I send out is one that can change the world.  The most amazing part of education is that we make dreams come true,” he said.

Perry challenged the audience to think about the education system, the effect of poverty on students and the real message of action that King communicated in his lifetime.  “A dream without action is sleep,” said Perry.  “Wake up! Stop dreaming! Start doing!”


January 21, 2014




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