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Friday, February 1, 2013

Martin Luther King Jr. remembered during Jan. 17 event

By Kean Spivey

A widespread power outage caused by an incoming winter storm did not stop UNC Pembroke from celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at its 9th annual program on January 17.

From Left: Jarrett Evans, Dr. Willie McNeill, Comfort Johnson, Robert Canida, Jennifer Smith and Keedric Woodard

From Left: Jarrett Evans, Dr. Willie McNeill, Comfort Johnson, Robert Canida, Jennifer Smith and Keedric Woodard

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With emergency lights and candles on every table, the show went on. The event started with Jarret Evans, a graduate assistant in the Office of Multicultural and Minority Affairs (OMMA), giving personal witness about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Without him, I would not be where I am today,” Evans said. “It’s amazing to see how far we have come.”

Evans was followed by a performance of the “Negro National Anthem” by UNCP elementary education major Jennifer Smith.

Dr. Willie McNeill, a professor in UNCP’s School of Education, did a reenactment of King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech that ended in a round of applause.

Kyle Alcala, OMMA’s social media specialist, introduced keynote speaker Robert Canida, director of OMMA.

Originally, the keynote speaker was to be Dr. Eric Mansfield, a democratic member of the North Carolina Senate and an otolaryngologist. Dr. Mansfield had an unexpected emergency, so Canida took his place.

A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, he was named the first African American to lead UNCP’s Office of Multicultural and Minority Affairs in 2002.

“My wish is that something I say will somehow touch you tonight,” he said.

Canida suggested three attributes to become the best person we can be. He called these the “three A’s of attitude, action and achievement.”

“Be the change you wish to see in the world,” he said quoting Indian political activist and pacifist Mahatma Gandhi, who inspired Dr. King. Canida encouraged audience members to change their attitudes toward schoolwork and life in general to help encourage others to do the same.

Robert Canida

Robert Canida

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According to Canida, a better attitude will encourage others to make choices to ensure that the world is a better, more productive and nurturing place.

“A little attitude goes a long way,” Canida said. “The more you take action with a better attitude the better it gets.”

Improvements with your attitude and the actions you take will lead to better achievements in life.

“What kind of legacy do you want to lead?” Canida asked. “It all starts with you.”

After Canida’s speech, the power returned and Evans asked if anyone wanted to say anything about Dr. King’s legacy.

Evans said growing up in the inner city of Charlotte made it difficult to see a life past that. “Dr. King brought a new perspective to things. He made it possible for me to have the friends I have, the opportunities I have and the education that I want.”

Growing up in the Deep South, Jennifer Smith said she saw how impactful the Civil Rights Movement was and how much progress has been made.

“I’m grateful to be a part of his legacy,” Smith said.


After the testimonies, the Dr. Collie Coleman Scholarship Award was given to Keedric Woodard. He is a graduate of Alabama State University and is currently [a student] in the Nursing Department at UNCP.

The Dr. Collie Coleman Award is named for a former UNCP administrator who passed away in 2008. It provides financial assistance to a member of UNCP’s National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) who demonstrates high academic achievement.

A performance of “Lean On Me” was given by student Comfort Johnson to close out the event.

For information about this or other events of the Office for Minority and Multicultural Affairs, contact them at 910.521.6508 or email

Kean Spivey, who also took the photographs for this article, is a senior mass communication major at UNCP.

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