The Office of Multicultural Affairs at Niagara University presented the second annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. award to four students with winning entries on Jan. 24. Held in the Gallagher Center, the ceremony is part of the school’s MLK Celebration, highlighting the students’ winning work which incorporates the principles and values exhibited in the life of the social justice icon.
The event began with an introduction to the award and to MLK himself by the Office of Multicultural Affairs graduate assistant Simone Beckford. Beckford talked about the award, describing how it was designed to give students the opportunity to highlight and celebrate MLK’s message of non-violence, peace, and equality.
Entries could be anything from dance to spoken poetry. A panel of three judges picked the recipients of the award, with each recipient receiving $350.
“We had 12 submissions, which is a good amount for this scholarship program,” said Beckford. “We are glad that we can offer it and hopefully increase the amount of the award as the years go on.”
Khallid Lewis, a senior hospitality major, presented an in-depth powerpoint titled “Apartheid: A Brief History of South Africa”. The presentation outlined everything that occurred from 1948 to 1991, highlighting how life was like for African Americans under the oppressive regime.
Chris Platone, a sophomore education major, presented his own original poem called “The Tender to the Fire”. Before reading the poem out loud, he revealed his inspiration for the piece.
“Something I didn’t tell anyone when I started this poem was that I wrote in in the wake of one of my friends who had committed suicide,” Platone said. “In times like this, I turn to poetry as an outlet, so I can create beauty out of something dreary.”
The poem touches on the life and events of MLK, and how his legacy is still relevant today. Afterwards, Platone commented that he believes MLK would be proud that the money from the award would be used for the art club’s Costa Rica Initiative, whose goal is to raise $13,000 to support 20 girls with an after school program.
Tia Robinson, a senior Spanish and criminal justice major, performed a spoken word piece titled “Reality”. She stated that the piece was inspired by her time spent at NU and how she has become more aware of worldwide issues since attending school. The emotional piece discussed her experiences as an African American women as well as the state of racism in the U.S.
“Brothers and sisters, can’t you see,” Robinson said. “It’s 2017 and after all these years, our people are still not free.”