Texas State community celebrates Martin Luther King at annual student-led event featuring poetry and dance performances

Sandy Pantlik | January 25, 2019

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Texas State University students led a moving and powerful tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. through poetry, song, dance and art at the 35th Annual MLK Jr. Commemoration Celebration at the LBJ Student Center the evening of January 22. The theme for this year’s event was, “This is Our Time.”

Jonnie Wilson, an assistant director in the university’s Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion, has been coordinating the annual event for 18 years. Although the event is coordinated by Student Diversity and Inclusion, it is planned and executed primarily by a Texas State student committee. This year, she says, the event was more student-led than ever before.

Jessica Thibodeaux, a senior majoring in sociology, and Don Thomas, a junior majoring in applied sociology, served as emcees for the evening, with Thomas expounding on the event’s theme.

“During the Civil Rights Movement, it was time for a change from the severe and harsh reality of oppression and segregation. It was a time to advocate for and promote racial equality. In his time, Dr. King dreamed of a nation where all people would live free from judgment by the content of their skin and based the content of their character,” said Thomas. “It’s our time to be more informed, to be more aware, to be more empathetic, and to be more accepting of people and their lived realities. It’s our time to be open-minded. It’s okay to have different opinions and having a conversation to follow. It’s time to work towards relation-building in love.”

Katherine Casarez, a senior counselor at the Houston Area Women’s Center and a Texas State alumna, provided a blessing early in the program. Tiera Johnson, a junior majoring in exercise and sports science, sang the Black National Anthem. Emari Shelvin, a senior and a nursing major, introduced President Denise Trauth for her remarks. 

President Trauth spoke about the powerful legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., the values he shared through his heroic activism, and how his message of justice, inclusion, and non-violence is as current today as it was when he delivered it decades ago.

An interpretive dance set to the song “Monster” by Jacob Banks was performed by Dr. Skyller Walkes, interim director of the Office of Disability Services, and students Sammera Fadul and Don Thomas. 

Dr. Walkes also performed a spoken word piece to set the stage for six students to perform spoken word, including: Miguel Ramirez, a graduate student studying Spanish; Breana Miller, a junior psychology major; Hana Curry, a junior theater major; Taityana Lusk, a senior criminal justice major; Sammera Fadul, a senior studying interior design and health information management; and Jay Faith, a senior studying health information management. Jada Owens, a senior theatre major, took the stage and gave a riveting dance performance. The work of artists Celica Ledesma, Sammera Fadul and Don Thomas was also displayed.

Event sponsors included Student Diversity and Inclusion, Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, 2019 MLK Commemoration Committee, Department of Housing and Residential Life, Dean of Students, Counseling Center, Office of Disability Services, Center for Diversity and Gender Studies, the Multicultural Programs Committee, Disability Services, the Underrepresented Student Advisory Council, and the LBJ Student Center.

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For more information, contact University Communications:

Jayme Blaschke, 512-245-2555

Sandy Pantlik, 512-245-2922