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Reverend and students celebrate the life of MLK

"Imagine yourself leading a movement that puts you at the forefront of the world."

This is what the Rev. Tyrone Nelson asked the audience on Friday, Jan. 21, as the Center for Civic Engagement kicked off its Spring 2011 Brown Bag Discussion Series.

Nelson, a pastor at Sixth Mouth Zion Baptist Church in historic Jackson Ward, spoke to a group of students, faculty and staff for the final installment of the university's celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Adrienne Piazza, coordinator for student development and education program, said the Brown Bag Discussion was supposed to follow the last of the three themes that defined the movement of Martin Luther King Jr.

"We always do a brown bag discussion on Dr. King at the end of the week," she said. "This year we came up with a theme for each day: Monday's celebration focused on the arts, Tuesday focused on the research, and today's focus was on faith."

Revered Nelson spoke to the crowd about the impact the "I Have a Dream Speech" had on him when he was a young boy.

"I can remember watching a big floor model television," he said. "I vividly remember the 'I Have a Dream' speech in black and white and I remember being moved, thinking as a school-aged child that there was something special about this man."

Nelson told the audience that the world is a different place now and that people wrestle with their faith on a daily basis, but not with the same injustices as they did in the past. He also highlighted the fact that Martin Luther King Jr. spoke out against many unpopular causes such as economic injustice and war.

"Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist preacher, but I think his main focus was to make this world a better place," Nelson said.

The audience was surprised to hear that Dr. King was supposed to tour Richmond and Petersburg the last week of March in 1968 but instead he made a choice to go to Memphis where he stood up for the sanitation workers and their rights.

"Who knows, if he came to Sixth Mount Zion, he may have still been alive," Nelson said.

Nelson went on to answer questions from the audience about Martin Luther King Jr. and spoke about some of the programs in Richmond that are bringing people together in order to make Richmond a better place.

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"Differences are what make us who we are," Nelson said. "The world is a better place when we can appreciate and operate in diversity.

"In the 21st century we are engrossed in self. I would like to see us look beyond ourselves and see the beauty of humanity."

Nelson is 37 years old and has spent 36 years living in Richmond. His mother is a preacher and his father is a deacon.

He was recognized by Style Magazine in 2009 as one of Richmond's 40 most influential leaders under 40 years old.

Contact reporter Bria Eulitt at bria.eulitt@richmond.edu

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