Peru, Nebraska - The second annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Brunch was held on Monday, January 18. The event celebrated the life of Dr. King and his vision of equal rights for all. The event was held in the Al Wheeler Activity Center and hosted by the Black Student Union and the Council for Diversity, Equality and Inclusion.
The brunch included a live performance by the Hoyt Street Jazz Ensemble and included speakers, Dr. Danita Webb and Ms. Delores Matthews. The event also included a reading of the first-place winning essay from Birchcrest Elementary School’s 6th grade class by Dr. Robert Ingram.
Dr. Webb spoke to the college via zoom to about the everyday effects that racial disparity has in her own personal and professional life and the lives of her friends and colleagues.
Webb said, “You see, we cannot continue to remain silent. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.’ But speaking up and speaking out, doesn’t just rest on the shoulders of the oppressed, we must unite.”
Webb also paid tribute to the late civil rights activist and politician, John Lewis, and his belief of getting into good trouble, she urged the audience to “Speak up, speak out, get in the way.”
After Webb’s presentation, Dr. Ingram read an essay by Brooklyn Mickells, a student in Mrs. Ashlee Shreck’s 6th grade class from Birchcrest Elementary school in Bellevue Nebraska. The topic was “I am a difference maker.”
Mickells wrote, “I really want to help those less fortunate; it would really make me happy to know what I’m doing is helping out and bringing smiles to their faces.”
Ms. Matthews led the assembly through a history lesson on the music employed by Martin Luther King Jr. and the NAACP’s fight for equality, concluding with a live performance of John Legend’s millennial anthem, “Glory.”
The Brunch concluded with remarks made by Peru State’s President, Dr. Dan Hanson, focused on his reaction to the George Floyd protests.
“This past year, my assumptions about progress towards equality have been challenged. What I assumed was true, is not the truth that others live. I now have a deeper understanding that for this dream for America and this dream for Peru State College to become a reality, we have to commit to self-examination, we have to be intentional, we have to plan. Visions and dreams are fulfilled with plans and diligence…
“I have a deeper understanding of how racism, mean and hateful, even threatening comments, by a few, impacts the lives and experiences of all, of our friends, family, colleagues, and students of color. These challenges to my assumptions have recommitted me to change, the change necessary to achieve Dr. Martin Luther King’s Jr.’s dream, which is America’s dream. So I encourage you to recommit as well…
“I challenge each of you, as I challenge myself to be inquisitive, question your assumptions, look for new information about the experience of people of color, and how we can grow at Peru State College.”
Black Student Union meets every Monday at 3:30 in the Burr Oak Room, if you are interested in joining or have questions, contact Dr. Kristi Nies at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to learn more about the Council for Diversity Equality and Inclusion, visit peru.edu/unity
Quentin Victor contributed to this release.