Leenika Belfield-Martin | Lifestyle Editor
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is more than just a day off for Hampton University. It is a day filled with reflection, service and unity. Now, almost 50 years after King’s death, students at Hampton and people across the world still march for justice.
The winter weather and snow flurries didn’t deter Hampton students, staff and community members from marching last Monday morning. One of those marchers, Hampton University student Amber Jones, said that the significance of the day is “honoring the legacy of one of the most pivotal trailblazers we have in the African-American community.” Jones is a senior biology major, leadership studies minor and the vice president of the student recruitment team.
Following the march, a program was held in Ogden Hall. Some special guests from the Hampton community attended the event, including Hampton Mayor Donnie Tuck and David Nygaard, who is running for Congress.
The program featured musical selections from “The Sounds of Greer,” a spoken word from Mr. NAACP, an interpretative dance from the Terpsichorean Dance Company and a keynote address from Dr. Sarita M. Wilson-Guffin.
“If we ever needed a perfect day to stand up and speak out against bigotry and xenophobia, and to remind people that we aren’t going to let anyone turn us around, then today is that day,” said Jeremiah Edwards, the president of Hampton University’s NAACP. “It’s a day that allows us to reflect on struggle that occurred in the name of justice. It also forces us to be reminded of what is at stake if we don’t keep up the fight.”
Edwards also said he believes that King wouldn’t be too disappointed with the African-American community today.
“I believe that the black community is thriving; however, like any other community, we have our own issues to deal with,” Edwards said. “I think [King] would tell us that there is more work to be done.”
When Wilson-Guffin took to the podium, she described the purpose of Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a day to “celebrate [and] commemorate a life of one’s shoulders we stand on today.” The speaker reminded the audience that although the “the mission is different; the message is the same.”
Even though the Civil Rights Era is long gone, people are still fighting to have equal rights in America and around the world.
The speaker compared the issues of today with the problems of the past and asked the audience, “Have we felt so complacent that chaos feels comfortable?” The audience was so moved by Wilson-Guffin’s speech that they gave her a standing ovation.
The speech particularly resonated with Edwards.
“My favorite part was her tag line: different mission, same message,” Edwards said. “That’s so true. We are facing a different group of people who are determined to make sure that actions of injustice prevail. We have to come up with a new plan, but make sure we keep the same message.”
Wilson-Guffin is an ordained elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Combining her love of ministry and dance, Wilson-Guffin wrote her novel Dance the World: A Handbook for Liturgical Dance Ministries.
Wilson-Guffin has a special connection to Hampton because she is the daughter of Dr. Greer Dawson Wilson, the founder of the Greer Dawson Wilson Student Leadership Program. The Student Leadership Program has grown to become one of the most prestigious organizations on Hampton’s campus.