Resounding message of love echoed through Bondurant Auditorium

Nia Naomi Johnson performing spoken word.

Nia Naomi Johnson performing spoken word.

In the halls of Bondurant Auditorium, a resounding message of compassion, understanding and unity was conveyed on Jan. 16 as part of Radford University’s MLK Commemorative Program.

Ilyasah Shabazz, daughter of civil rights activist Malcolm X, addressed hundreds of Radford University students, faculty, staff and community members. Shabazz is an educator, activist, motivational speaker and author whose inspiration comes from her mother’s wisdom, courage and compassion.

“I’m always humbled by an opportunity to honor those on whose shoulders we stand and to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King and what he means to this country,” Shabazz said.

The event, titled “Perspectives on Racial Justice, Past and Present,” was sponsored by the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, Diversity Awareness Programming, Greek Life and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated. The event began with an inspirational video and was followed with a variety of speakers. Nehemiah Bester, a senior, provided comments on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy.

Ilyasah Shabazz signs books after giving her remarks.
Ilyasah Shabazz signs books after giving her remarks.

“On this day, we gather to celebrate the legacy, triumph and lifetime achievements of one of the world’s most influential human beings,” Bester said. “Dr. King’s message has been exemplary to what we all consider social justice in attacking discrimination and inequality. He wanted not just rights for some, but rights for all.”

Myra Brooks and Johnathan Williams, also students at Radford, provided a moving rendition of “Lift Every Voice.” Brooks provided another performance later in the program.

Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill said “Radford’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is central to our mission of discovery.”

“As we celebrate the legacy and vision of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Radford family again orients itself as a beacon of light,” President Hemphill said. “As a university family, we are committed to doing the best that we can every day, for all people, in this great nation and the world.”

On Jan. 15, nearly 300 Radford University students, faculty and staff gave back to the local communities for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. Radford’s Day of Service exemplified the core of Shabazz’s remarks – giving back to communities.

“We are a country and a people that care – and not just about our personal well-being but about the conditions of our communities, our environments and our world at large,” she said.

Now in its fifth consecutive year, the community service event included hundreds of volunteers who served across the New River and Roanoke Valleys in a variety of capacities.

Nehemiah Bester providing the introduction to the Jan. 16 event.

Nehemiah Bester providing the introduction to the Jan. 16 MLK Commemorative Program.

“Radford family unselfishly weaved the fabric of our community tighter with strands of kindness and service,” President Hemphill said. “Radford University strives to honor Dr. King with service to our students, our community and our Commonwealth. With teaching and learning at our core, the Radford community works to overcome the tyranny of poverty, opportunity gaps and discrimination.”

Anne Marie Klotz, a new member of the Highlander family and the vice president for Student Affairs, said “now is the time for us to remember his powerful message of change through nonviolence and service.”

“Today we celebrate Dr. King’s legacy by reflecting on his fight for freedom, equality and dignity of all people regardless of race, color, socio-economic status, gender or any circumstance that leads to bigotry or oppression,” Klotz said.

Ilyasah Shabazz giving her remarks.
Ilyasah Shabazz giving her remarks.

Before Shabazz took the stage, the audience heard a powerful spoken word performance by sophomore Nia Naomi Johnson.

During her remarks, Shabazz said that it’s important to understand one’s identity, humanity and compassion.

“My premise is very simple: much like our parents that challenged injustice issues, I believe that every child must have the opportunity to be their greatest selves, to conquer the obstacles that stand in their way, to be inspired, motivated and believe that they are worthy of self-love,” Shabazz said. “They are worthy of a quality education and the right to realize his or her true potential so that they may ultimately participate in the mainstream of society.

“I learned that in order to love others, you must first love yourself,” Shabazz continued. “It’s important to me that my students must understand that they are a reflection of me and I a reflection of them. We are interconnected and responsible for one another.

Shabazz left the audience with some food for thought.

“Sometimes we complain that we don’t have effective leaders, but, ladies and gentlemen, we are those leaders that we seek,” she said. “What are we waiting for? Who are we looking for? We are those leaders. If we see that change needs to be done, let’s do something about it.”

Jan 22, 2018
Max Esterhuizen