Readings, dance and song honored Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday afternoon during the university's annual community gathering.
The commemoration, Martin Luther King Day, 2012:Dream, Think, Act, was held at 2 p.m. in Camp Concert Hall. King, a Nobel Prize-winning civil rights activist, was assassinated in 1968.
Dorothy Holland, host of the commemoration and chairwoman of theatre and dance, before introducing the first performance, said: "In the Civil Rights Movement, there is much to celebrate today. There is also much still left to fight for, to struggle for and to overcome."
The Ngoma African Dance Ensemble was first to honor King with a dance called "Lamban." Junior member Adowa Asante said that the dance symbolized soundness of body and mind, and was also a welcome or celebration for royal families.
"As we celebrate Dr. King's legacy, we would like to celebrate our healthy minds and bodies that enable us to dream, think, and act," Asante said.
Members from Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., of which King was a member, presented a video to the audience of their trip to King's memorial in Washington D.C. The memorial opened in August last year and has been visited by more than two million people, according to the National Memorial Project Foundation.
Senior Dwayne Foster, president of Alpha, said, "I'm here because I think MLK day is a day for reflection and service." Foster said he thought many people used the national holiday off from work or school to sleep or party, and instead should use the day to honor King and his dream.
"This is the time to reflect on what MLK did and to ask yourself, 'What am I doing to keep the dream moving?'"
Other students and Greek organizations, as well as a choir from the community, honored King at the celebration.
One of the student performers, junior Cheyenne Varner, linked King's vision of social equality and justice to human trafficking in her presentation, "Two Women."
"It basically just originated out of me learning different information about what human trafficking is and what it looks like," Varner said. "And, it's supposed to really say that 'Yes, It does happen in the U.S. now, today.'"
Holland said during the performances she had felt an undertone of real spirit and thought the commemorations were both joyous and reflective of King.
At 3 p.m., some students and faculty gathered in a demonstration in the Forum to suggest better ways to honor King. The demonstration, led by junior Lakita Eason, was a campus-wide protest that encouraged students to walk out of their classes and attend a discussion on King and recognition of the holiday on campus.
"There were other, more aggressive parts of the Civil Rights Movement," Eason said. "It wasn't all passive." She said she thought that those parts of King's legacy and others were often overlooked.
Andrea Simpson, chairwoman of the political science department, said at the protest, "Martin Luther King has become the Santa Claus of the Civil Rights movement."
Eason said Simpson had acted as a mentor to help her launch the protest, which was led to advocate for the university's observance of King's day with a day off from classes, during which students would attend mandatory workshops on social equality and change.
"There's plenty of room for change and growth," she said.
Contact staff writer Keon Monroe at email@example.com.