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HomenewsKennett community unites at Lincoln University – Daily Local

Kennett community unites at Lincoln University – Daily Local

The event begins as friends greet guests inside the lobby of Lincoln University’s Wellness Center. (Photo by Jen Samuel – For MediaNews Group)

LOWER OXFORD — Southern Chester County united as people gathered in fellowship for a beloved community in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. on his birthday at Lincoln University this Monday.

The event marked the 23rd annual celebration honoring King by the Martin Luther King Community of the Greater Kennett Area, popularly known as simply MLKCommUNITY.

Carol Black is the president for MLKCommUNITY’s board of directors. She opened the event with welcome remarks in honor of King – celebrating his life, his birthday, and his legacy.

“Dr. King’s vision for us today is to work to build the beloved community. He defined the beloved community as a group of people that could come together to solve any social issue, division, or struggle,” Black said in her opening remarks.

Black continued, “Dr. King reminded us that mankind’s greatest evils are poverty, hate, racism, war. Dr. King understood that this work would not be easy. But he said, ‘All of us can become champions of civil and human rights … All of us can make a difference.’”

January 15 marked the second consecutive year that the MLKCommUNITY of the Greater Kennett Area held its King celebration at Lincoln University. It was attended by community leaders, civic justice advocates, musicians, religious leaders, and students spanning all ages.

“You will have the opportunity to explore foundational knowledge about intersectionality, privilege, and allyship and participate in activities that enhance your self-awareness,” she said of the afternoon workshops, “and promote social justice in everyday life, including addressing microaggressions and discrimination in real-time.”

Chesapeake Bay Girl Scouts Troop 472 and Oxford Boy Scouts Troop 44 conduct the presentation of colors.

Kennett Square Borough Council President Bob Norris read a letter by Martin Luther King Jr. – one that the reverend wrote while imprisoned in the Birmingham Jail.

“We can’t give up on Dr. King’s vision,” Norris said.

Nia Turner, the 49th Miss Lincoln University, read a eulogy by King delivered at the 16th St. Baptist Church. Hashone Carry, president of the Student Government Association at Lincoln, read King’s adoptive sermon of the 1952 homily “Drum-Major Instincts” by J. Wallace Hamilton. N. Brandywine Middle School Principal Eugenia Roberts recited King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech first shared to the world on August 28, 1963 in Washington D.C. from the steps of the Lincoln Monument.

The Lincoln University Concert Choir sang a plethora of inspirational hymns and ballads including “We Have a Dream” by Dennis Melton; the “Star Spangled Banner” by John Stafford Smith and Francis Scott Key; and the Negro National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson.

Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929. He was assassinated by gunshot on April 4, 1968. King was 39. The Nobel Peace Prize recipient led the way in America for civil rights through nonviolence demonstrations. Besides justice and equality, he advocated for the beloved community in which all people lived together, at peace, in fellowship.

The Rev. Robin Smith, The New York Times #1 bestselling author delivered the keynote address. She is the daughter of Rosa Lee Smith and Warren Smith, one of America’s first African American psychiatrists and a 1949 graduate of Lincoln University.

She said it is an interesting equation when there is trauma and injury. “We are looking for anyone to take responsibility — except us.”

Smith said everyone in the room had a responsibility for the liberation of all human beings.

She discussed victimization — “ways in which you have been marginalized. Victimized. Where things were planted purposefully to harm, to kill – not just your life, but your dreams. Your aspirations. Your hopefulness. You can take all of those things that broke you … And what is miraculous about this process is the things that were meant to break you can become the very stepping stones to your elevation. To your understanding. To your transformation. To your declaration. To be all of you were born to be.”

After the keynote address and benediction, attendees held hands and sang: “We Shall Overcome.”

Following the fellowship, there were interactive workshops on nonviolence and justice led by distinguished scholars from Maryland, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.

Norris said the celebration and remembrance of Dr. King‘s work at Lincoln University was beautiful.  “It embodied the true spirit of the Kennett community – inclusive and caring,” the council president said.

He continued, “The inspiring talk by Reverend Dr. Robin Smith challenges all of us to recognize that we have a ways to go before we consider racism a thing of the past. I am grateful to Carol Black and her team at the Martin Luther King CommUNITY of the Greater Kennett Area for their continual efforts to stomp out racism.”

In 2020, the last MLKCommUNITY annual event on Martin Luther King Jr. Day was held in Kennett Square at the Kennett Fire Co.’s banquet hall. Recently, the event has expanded south to Lincoln University where it now takes place at the Wellness Center in Lower Oxford.

This annual event continues to touch the hearts of attendees with the words of King, and the sound of music continues to grow by leaps and bounds. And it indeed remains a regional affair.

On Sunday, Lincoln alumnus Oliver Franklin, an officer of the Order of the British Empire, led a viewing and discussion of the film: Slavery in the Age of Revolution at the Kennett Library.

“I believe what makes Kennett such a special place to call home is the compassion and openness of the people who live here,” said Norris, adding that he hoped King would be proud.

“There are so many people, neighbors, reaching out to help neighbors,” Norris said.

On December 1, Governor Josh Shapiro conducted a ceremonial bill signing at Lincoln University and lauded the university’s motto: Learn. Liberate. Lead. He said the slogan is an anthem that Lincoln lives by as the students here “righteously demand action.”

“Lincoln University is proud to gather together today and host the Martin Luther King CommUNITY event at Lincoln’s Wellness Center,” said Brenda Allen, university president.

“This year’s theme ‘It Begins With Me: Cultivating the Beloved Community’ aims to encourage unity and inspire positive change within the Kennett area,” Allen said. She said Lincoln has been delighted to welcome distinguished speakers Robin Smith, best-selling author, and Oliver Franklin, diplomat.

Lincoln University was founded in 1854, marking the beginning of historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) in America.

“As the first degree-granting HBCU,” Allen noted, “it is through thoughtful discussions, interactive workshops, and shared experiences that we cultivate the beloved community Dr. King envisioned.”

During Smith’s closing keynote address, she encouraged people to have the courage to hope and in self-reflection have self-compassion.

“Shame in particular — it’s a soul-murderer,” Smith said.

She cited her own father who said: “You can’t be well if you harbor hate.”

Referring to the universal vision of King, she said that the idea of a beloved community is for all to share in the wealth, and the health, of the earth.

“I invite all of you to be in the practice of nonviolence — that we would honor Dr. King,” Smith said. “That must start with you.”

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