On Jan. 21, Maryville College celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day with an event held in
the Lambert Recital Hall of the Clayton Center for the Arts. As in past years, Jan. 21 was the
capstone of a weeklong series of events hosted by MC’s Black Student Alliance (BSA). This
year’s event boasted one of the largest school attendances in the last decade.
Jerica Johnson, president of BSA, was a prominent member in setting up the various
performances for the events.
“BSA, as well as other students, has been a tremendous help in planning this event,” Johnson
said. “I booked the event and we took the responsibility to plan the speaker. It was all student-
led,” said Johnson.
Last year, the BSA and many members of the MC community were touched by the speech
given by Dr. Rodmon King, last year’s keynote speaker for the MLK Day campus event. BSA
asked Rodmon King if he would be able to speak again at this year’s event, but he had already
been scheduled for another engagement. Although King was unable to attend the event, he
arrived at MC the Thursday before MLK Day to give various talks to members of BSA and
Voices of Praise (VOP) about cultural diversity issues over the next few days.
“We talked about being conscious about issues going on, on campus,” Johnson said. “I think
the school is doing a wonderful job in addressing these issues.”
Although Rodmon King could speak at the event, he suggested that BSA invite his father,
Rev. Judge Roy King.
King was a practicing attorney in Rochester, N.Y. from 1965-1996. In Dec. 1996, he was
appointed City Court Judge and was elected in 1997. Judge King also served as Supervising
Judge of the City Court of Rochester, Presiding Judge of the Rochester Drug Treatment Court
and Acting Count Court Judge from Jan. 1, 2002 until his retirement from the bench on Dec. 31,
2006. Judge King is currently the assistant pastor and chairman of the Board of Trustees of the
New Progressive Cathedral Church of God in Christ in Rochester, N.Y.
At the event on Jan. 21, King gave a speech, which was tied to the multicultural department’s
theme for this year, “Smiling Faces Sometimes: The Changing Face of Discrimination.” Based
on a popular song written by producer Norman Whittfield and Barrett Strong in 1971, the theme
seeks to provide a new perspective on discrimination in the nation and in the MC community.
King spoke about his experiences in serving the community and how racial discrimination is
still an important issue that cannot be swept under the rug by “smiling faces.”
“Judge King brought a good message,” said Brian Bush, MC senior and member of BSA. “It
was something we needed to hear. I feel like we do a good job with diversity on this campus,
but there’s still progress to be made.” Along with King’s speech, the event also featured
performances by MC students. MC’s VOP performed songs, such as “Destined for Greatness” by
Ricky Dillard and “Ride On, King Jesus,” a classic hymn.
Xavier Sales, class of 2016, read “Our Deepest Fear” a piece taken from a book by Marianne
Williamson. Talor Russell, class of 2016, sang “Man in the Mirror,” originally performed by
Michael Jackson. Lauren Vasquez recited “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou.
Larry Ervin, director of VOP and director of multicultural affairs at MC, gave the closing
remarks for the ceremony. The ceremony came to a close as VOP invited the audience to sing
along to “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often referred to as the African American National
After the ceremony, attendees were invited to eat lunch in the Proffitt Dining Room while
watching the second inauguration of Barack Obama, which was streamed live.
“It made you think about things on two fronts: the progress we’ve made so far in this country
and the progress that Martin Luther King initiated,” Bush said. “This is what he meant for
As an international student, Onyekachi Ononye, president of VOP, had a unique perspective
on the MLK Day events.
“He paved the way for the civil rights movement,” Ononye said. “As an international student,
being African and being black, he paved the way for me to come here to this school.”
After the inauguration ended, Johnson initiated a discussion among the students, faculty and
staff in attendance about their experiences with discrimination issues on campus. Older students
noted how cultural diversity seemed to be improving at MC, especially with the implementation
of news groups such as the Latino Student Alliance on campus.
“I feel like we should keep encouraging diversity on campus,” Bush said. “We need to bring
more students of color, different sexual orientations and nationalities to this campus and build a
community where every student can learn from one another.”