Each year, the university honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by hosting an all-day event known as MLK Day of Learning, which includes an opening convocation and a number of interactive workshops that take place throughout the day.
At this year’s opening convocation, the university welcomed speaker and mental health advocate, Achea Redd. Student Government also gave out its first MLK Jr. Spirit Award, an award that is given to a graduating senior who has exemplified service, courage, authenticity, and excellence during their time at the university.
Achea Redd, who recently published her first book called “Be You. Be Free.” has grown her platform by opening up about her struggles with mental health. The speech she gave at the opening convocation had a lot to do with similar themes of finding strength in vulnerability, destigmatizing the topic of mental health, and the importance of using one’s platform for good.
This consistent struggle is what Redd said is key to creating change, and she emphasized that it does not have to be done from a stage to an audience of thousands. Change is made every day, found in actions as simple as a smile or a wave.
Small is the new big when it comes to activism, because the leaders of movements like King would be powerless without a community of people working behind them.
Redd concluded her motivational speech by asking, “How can we facilitate the movement that’s already moving?”
She essentially challenged the audience to use their platform in ways that can change the world, no matter how big or small that platform may be. This final question captured the essence of what MLK Day is all about, and what King himself stood for.
One of the morning workshops, titled “MLK and the Struggle to be Human Together” and facilitated by Kevin Dudley, was devoted to showing how even the great guiding figure was full of contradictions, imperfect and yet full of purpose.
Based around quotations from King’s writings and speeches, the discussion was focused around his methods of navigating the turbulent world and making space for the people whom society had most overlooked.
Again, the conversation turned towards small-scale efforts; building personal relationships with those that may need support is a major way to make an immediate difference in communities. This form of human-focused action was utilized by King, and Achea Redd advocated for it in her final challenge to the audience.
After Redd’s speech concluded, it was time for Student Government to present its first MLK Jr. Spirit Award. The idea of this award was discussed at last year’s MLK Day of Learning event and it was decided that the first award would be given out at this year’s event.
“This award took almost an entire year to create and fine tune,” Student Body President Sam Montanez said in an email. “Of course, over the years with new members of Student Government, it can change.”
Montanez presented the award to Malik Murray, a graduating senior who was nominated for exemplifying the four characteristics of service, courage, authenticity, and excellence that were important to the life and legacy of King.