By Ethan Horst
While many Grace students were enjoying a day off, community members, faculty, and a few hardy students braved the single-degree temperatures to attend a variety of events honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Committee to Commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Inc., and Warsaw Community Schools partnered with Grace College to host the 31st Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Luncheon in the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center at 11:00 p.m. Community members, staff, faculty, and students gathered to hear songs from the Warsaw Community High School Choir, as well as a message from Chris Singleton.
Singleton is a professional baseball player, signed to the Chicago Cubs organization, who became an inspirational speaker after his mother, Sharonda Coleman Singleton, was among the nine victims of a racially motivated shooting at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Singleton shared experiences from both that time and the years following, focusing on a single message that he credits God with giving him less that 24 hours after his mother was killed: “Love is stronger than hate.” Singleton added that it is “up to each and every one of us, not the people up top, to unite our cities” and that unity is only possible “when we teach our peers and youth to love based on character, not skin color.”
Immediately following the luncheon, students had the opportunity to practice love at the Kindness Initiative, an event sponsored by Serve, a student-led ministry focused on providing students with an opportunity to use their talents in service to others. Students packed 200 goody bags with toys, candy, and cereal for the Baker Youth Club. “React Week is in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr, and he was a supporter of love and kindness towards all people. Providing this event gives our students a chance to honor Dr. King by showing kindness to people all around them here in Winona Lake and Warsaw,” said Madi Brill, SERVE coordinator for the Kindness Initiative.
The final event was Q Union, sponsored by the Council for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) in partnership with Q, an organization creating spaces for Christians to face the hard questions of today’s culture. Q Union had five speakers, three recorded simulcasts from the national Q Union in October, and two students from Grace College. The simulcast presenters included Bob Goff, author of “Love Does” and “Everybody Always,” as well as author and speaker Jo Saxton and CEO and founder of Charity: water, Scott Harrison, while the students were seniors Dyneshia Smith, student chaplain, and Brittani Boyd, editor of the Inkspot magazine.
The theme for Q Union was “the power of We,” and each speaker spoke on the necessity of unity to drive change. Smith shared some of her own story, coming to Grace after being raised in a non-Christian home and the challenges of feeling like she needed to “catch up” with her peers in her knowledge of the Bible and Christian tradition. She challenged students to remember that other people may not have come from the same background, as well as not losing sight of the fact that many events seem like obligations, e.g. chapel and classes, should be regarded as privileges, as many people cannot participate in them.
Boyd spoke about “the adverse asset,” technology, specifically, cell phones and social media. She clarified that she was fully a millennial, having created a MySpace account at the age of 10 and obtaining her first cell phone by 11. She pointed out that while social media and cell phones were created to connect people, they often drive isolation and anxiety. She challenged students to stop using social media as a shield against awkwardness, to embrace uncomfortable social situations, and use that to facilitate uncomfortable but necessary conversations about tough topics like race, gender and politics.
Image above: Chris Singleton, professional baseball player for the Chicago Cubs and inspirational speaker, delivers the keynote speech at the 31st annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Luncheon. Singleton called for unity and understanding, asserting that “love is stronger than hate.”