10th MLK event features Robinson


Featured speaker Eugene Robinson talks about his hometown of Orangeburg, S.C. and his experience with the Orangeburg Massacre in 1968.

Members of the Augustana Choir join hands during a performance at the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration that took place in Centennial Hall on Dec. 17 at 6 p.m.
Members of the Augustana Choir join hands during a performance at the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration that took place in Centennial Hall on Dec. 17 at 6 p.m.

A lone ballot box graced the stage of Centennial Hall Saturday at 6 p.m., marking the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the beginning of the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at Augustana.
The program included gospel performances from the Augustana Choir, guest directed by Keith Hampton and the Community Gospel Chorus, directed by Randy Moore. Other performances included a poetry reading by Black Student Union members, sophomore Crystal Gray and first-year Caleb Wright, and the Pentecostal Church of God Praise Dancers.
Gray, who recited a Maya Angelou poem, found the event to be comforting. “We did some of our cultural practices together, which are things that are difficult to do away from home being that the culture of the Augustana community is different,” said Gray. “Just singing along with the choir gave me warm vibes.”
Multiple speakers from the Quad Cities were in attendance, filling a majority of the performance hall. Several speakers were chosen from the Augustana community including Darien Marion-Burton, president of the Black Student Union, and Christopher Whitt, political science professor.
“Every year I am always impressed with how well the event is run, and this year was no exception,” said Marion-Burton. “I was also blown away with the Keynote speaker; for our college to have someone of that stature really shows a commitment to diversity.”
The featured speaker of the night was The Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson. Robinson was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for his writing about Barack Obama’s election campaign. Robinson spent the afternoon in media interviews, as well as a celebratory dinner before the celebration.
“It’s been fabulous, literally and figuratively a warm welcome,” said Robinson. “I’m really impressed with the program. I wish there were more colleges who hosted such a thoughtful celebration.”
Robinson provided a personal and emotional aspect to the event, citing his childhood in Orangeburg, S.C. Robinson was present at one of King. Jr’s rallies as a young boy, shortly before the Orangeburg Massacre. The massacre took place on Feb. 8, 1968 at South Carolina University. South Carolina highway patrolmen fired on a group of protestors, which resulted in three deaths and multiple injuries. The group had been protesting racial segregation of a local bowling alley.
“Eugene Robinson brought a heightened level of gravitas and depth to the event,” said Whitt. Whitt was one of several speakers throughout the night.
While the event for the community and those performing was a success, attendance numbers could have been higher.
“As is the case every year, I want more people to come,” said Whitt. “It was a full house, but there was room for more people from the Augustana community and the Quad Cities community to come be fed by a powerful message.”