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MLK event at JSU hosts local kids

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MLK day at JSU

From closest to camera (essentially right to left), we see Piedmont High School students Aidan Johnson, Frank Hill, Ella Harrell, Katie Lawler, Tiamyia Perry, and Payton Smith perform 'On the Pulse of Morning,' by Maya Angelou, at Jacksonville State University’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day event in Leone Cole Auditorium.

JACKSONVILLE Jacksonville State University kicked off its spring semester hosting a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event Thursday that featured several performances from area high school students as well as university students and alumni. 

In the Leone Cole Auditorium, JSU Director of Diversity and Inclusion Charlcie Pettway Vann hosted what she called an “outreach event” that pulled in talent from the community in effort to build that community.

High school students of Piedmont and Jacksonville performed emotional songs and poetry, and Piedmont drama and music teacher Jason Wright sang two moving songs that carried through the auditorium’s rafters. Wright was accompanied on the piano by Dr. Renee Baptiste. 

Alumnus Brentavious Cooper played the saxophone, and JSU student Tierra Thatch read poetry as well. 

Eighth-grader Chloe Buchanan read an original piece her mother wrote that was titled “A moment in history.”

“I've been participating in the King’s Center Training — they have virtual training for those that are into the cause of diversity inclusion,” Vann said. “And the term they’ve been using is ‘the beloved community.’ That’s what this whole program is about. It’s about the community bringing together people of different backgrounds.”

Vann said she thought this event would be a great forum to showcase talents from locals while honoring Dr. King’s legacy. She said King spoke of the Jews and the Gentiles, the blacks and the whites, having to work together and that her program is about that same concept of bringing people together. 

“That’s our main purpose — to always make people feel like they’re wanted and they’re welcomed,” Vann said. “And what better way to get the year started than with music.”

The hour-long event was cut shorter than expected due to several COVID-related absences, but those who did perform did so with emotion and pride. Eighth-graders along with college alumni took center stage in the auditorium to pay tribute to Dr. King and spread a message of love and inclusivity.

“He has a wonderful quote, ‘We will either learn to live together as brothers’ — and that’s what he said back in the ’60s so I’m going to input brothers and sisters — ‘or we will be forced to perish together as fools,’” Vann said. “And I don’t want to perish. And I don’t consider myself a fool, so I want to learn to live harmoniously, together.”