Candlelight vigil honors Martin Luther King Jr.

By Ashley Williams
Staff Writer

Photo by Gabrielle Lover
Rev. Mazie Butler Ferguson speaks to a crowd of faculty and students honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 13 in the UC Annex.

A candlelight vigil, inspirational words from civil rights advocate the Rev. Mazie Butler Ferguson, music and readings from Dr. King by members of the UNCP family marked the seventh annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., remembrance program on Jan. 13.

The candlelight vigil in honor of Dr. King first gathered everyone around in a circle on the University Center Annex lawn at 7 p.m. where they said what their dreams were.

During the program, Rev. Ferguson told the audience that people can connect themselves to one another through their shared vulnerability. She said that Mahatma Gandhi inspired Dr. King and also Bishop Desmond Tutu. She reminded the audience that Ghandi said, "If you want to change other people's behavior, you must change your own."

Rev. Ferguson said, "I like going to the university environment. In you, I touch the future."

Rev. Ferguson's words were informative and inspirational. She worked as a civil rights advocate for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as a member of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).

"I loved it," audience member James Hampton said. "It was very informative, first-hand information from someone who was there."

Rev. Ferguson is the great niece of legendary civil rights leader Mary McLeod Bethune. "She inspired me and continues to inspire me today," she said of Bethune. "I'm inspired by her boldness and how she broke ground every step of the way."

Music was interwoven throughout the event. Rev. Ferguson approached the podium singing "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free" and sang "Lift Every Voice and Sing" along with the audience.

Hollie Oxendine of Southeastern Family Violence Center sang "Wind Beneath My Wings" as her husband, Lee, played the piano for her.

Additional words of inspiration came from members of the UNCP family. Freshman Brandon Payton did a rendition of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream Speech."

Teresa Oxendine, assistant vice chancellor for Advancement, read a poem about Dr. King entitled "Amazing Dancer." She drew comparisons between Dr. King and the founders of the university pointing out that they all started out as ordinary citizens.

Oxendine echoed Rev. Ferguson's mention of Gandhi. Oxendine said Dr. King's method of peaceful protesting was inspired by Gandhi and that Gandhi was Dr. King's hero.

Oxendine quoted Dr. King by saying, "We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools."

"I thought the event was incredibly timely," said Associate Director for Residence Life Cynthia Redfearn. "The message was very poignant; it was a new and different perspective on the life and times of Dr. Martin Luther King."

Also during the event, the first Dr. Collie Coleman award was presented to student Troy Cotten. The award was presented by Robert Canida, director of the Office of Multicultural and Minority Affairs and Kappa Alpha Psi member; Anne Coleman, assistant dean for Research Services at the Livermore Library, Zeta Phi Beta member and widow of Dr. Coleman; and Kyle Chavis Coleman, Phi Beta Sigma member and son of Dr. Coleman.

The Dr. Collie Coleman Award of $500 provides financial assistance to a member in good standing of UNCP's National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) who demonstrates high academic achievement and financial need. The student must have a GPA of 2.5 or higher. The award honors and memorializes Dr. Coleman, the first African American Associate Vice Chancellor for Outreach at UNCP, who passed away in 2008, as a true educator, mentor, community activist, leader and visionary. He was a life-long member of Phi Beta Sigma.

"I loved the event," said freshman Drexton Russell. "I liked the event, it brought up some good points," said AmeriCorps Vista and NC-ACTS Program Assistant for the Office for Community and Civic Engagement Derald Dryman.

The event was hosted by the Office of Multicultural and Minority Affairs, Housing and Residence Life and the university's NAACP chapter.

Despite the fact that it snowed three days before the event, Canida said that approximately 80 people attended the event.