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Martin Luther King observance hosted by the Black Student Association

The Black Student Association (BSA) of Pittsburg State University, in collaboration with the men of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., honored Martin Luther King Jr. Day Monday, Jan. 18, at 6 p.m. at the campus Oval with a candlelight vigil accompanied by a brief program. 

 The Oval is situated in the middle of the campus in the green area between Russ Hall to the west, to the south of Whitesitt Hall, east of Heckert-Wells Hall, and the to the north of the Overman Student Center. 

The observance began with an opening song followed by the reading of the King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech. The speech was followed by two students who shared their observations and reflections on how King’s dream is being expressed in their lives today. 

“Dana Rae Johnson, Community Service Chair of BSA, sang the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice”, and D’Andre Phillips, member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. gave remarks on how he believed his life today intersects with King’s dream,” said Deatrea Rose, Senior Diversity Officer for Pitt State.  

“For more than a century, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” has held a powerful place in American history,” Rose said. “The hymn is known as the Black National Anthem. It was written by James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson, two brothers from Jacksonville, Florida. This song is a universal signifier of the Black identity.”  

D’Andre Phillips, senior in Math Education and Vice President of Gamma Chi Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., gave his speech about vulnerability and courage. He described how he learned through research and first-hand experience that one cannot be a courageous leader without being vulnerable.  

“As a culture we view vulnerability to be a negative thing and a sign of weakness, but in order to grow stronger we must change this narrative,” D’Andre Phillips said. “Dr. King was courageous by dreaming that dream, but he was vulnerable by sharing that dream with others and making it his mission to see his dream come true.” 

Michael Rose, PSU alum 1995, was chosen to read the “I Have a Dream” speech 

“Mr. Rose was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama and witnessed racism firsthand,” Rose said. “He can relate with the words of Dr. King and for that reason he was chosen to give the speech. His voice and the emphasis he used to recite the work was quite heartfelt and resonated with those in attendance.” 

The event was open to the public and social distancing measures were followed. 

“COVID, unfortunately has affected every aspect of all of our lives,” Rose said. “For those who may have felt uncomfortable attending in person, we offered the virtual option.”  

The observance was livestreamed on the black Student Association Facebook page and is currently archived for later viewing at facebook.com/PSU.Black.Student.Association.  

“For our first time holding this event, my staff and I were very happy with the turnout,” Rose said. “I believe everyone had no problems adhering to wearing their mask for the event and practicing social distancing.” 

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