By Lucas Johnson
NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — Tennessee State University partnered with the Interdenominational Ministers’ Fellowship and the Nashville community to help celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Hundreds of people assembled in front of Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church on Monday, January 16, to march to TSU’s Gentry Complex for its annual Convocation honoring King.
Before the march, a youth program and rally were held at the church. TSU President Glenda Glover pumped up the crowd by reminding them of the historical role Nashville played during the Civil Rights Movement, as well as the strong participation of youth in that movement.
She said that same fervor should burn within youth today, and she lauded those who came out to honor King.
“We are so thankful that the youth movement is here,” Glover said. “It was youth like you who touched the consciousness of America. That torch has now been passed on to you who are present today. Let’s keep the flame burning.”
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, who has set a goal to find jobs for 10,000 youth this summer, said part of continuing King’s legacy means not ceasing to act on the things he fought for, like jobs.
“Today is about that speech that he gave so many years ago when he talked about his dream,” Barry said. “But you know what, before that speech, that march was called the march on Washington for jobs and freedom. So today it is about jobs, because we know if they (youth) have paid meaningful internships, that’s going to lead to opportunity, that’s going to lead to hope. Government can’t solve all the problems, but together, we can absolutely have an impact.”
Whether at the youth program and rally, or the Convocation, the collective message of this year’s King Day seemed to be the empowerment of today’s youth at a time of heightened social injustice, said many of the participants. The killing of young, unarmed black men by police has particularly caused tension across the country.
“It really brings to light what’s going on with our young people right now, and what he (King) really wanted for us,” said Avery Davis, who participated in the march.
TSU senior Kourtney Daniels agreed the police shootings, as well as the results of the recent presidential election, have seemingly taken the country back decades. But she said she always looks forward to honoring King, because doing so provides a dose of needed hope.
“It’s just a great day to get together with the community, reflect, and plan for the future,” Daniels said.
The Convocation’s keynote speaker, activist and educator Brittany Packnett, said before her speech that there’s still a lot of work to be done in terms of equality, but that we should all be undaunted, like King was.
“My message is to leave with a spirit of hope, with a spirit of power, and with a spirit of resistance for the work that lies ahead,” said Packnett, a co-founder of Campaign Zero and a member of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing and the Ferguson Commission.
Other Convocation participants included Dr. Glover, Mayor Barry, U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper, State Rep. Harold Love, Jr. and Dr. Shawn Joseph, director of Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools.
During the Convocation, the Interdenominational Ministers’ Fellowship presented $1,000 each to TSU, Fisk University, Meharry Medical College and American Baptist College for student scholarships.