Students from high schools across Northeast Ohio gathered in the Kent State Ballroom yesterday morning to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr.
The themed celebration, “Toward the Dream,” was split into two programs. The first half, or community celebration, featured high school students who represented King and his dream through either art, poetry or speech.
More than 200 students participated in the event — the largest number in the celebration’s history.
Debra Shuler, administrative assistant in the Office of Diversity and Academic Initiatives, said that the program is an outreach to possible Kent State students.
“Participation of (high) schools is always one of the goals because we want community involvement,” Shuler said.
Kevin Beeler, high school senior at Cleveland School of the Arts, drew a portrait of Stevie Wonder for the program.
“I drew Stevie Wonder in contribution to Black History Month and to honor his greatness,” Beeler said. “He had a powerful impact on inspiring many African Americans.”
Other students drew pictures of prominent blacks, such as Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama, that were on display throughout the program.
Beeler, whose school was recognized for having the most student participants, said the program was a good idea.
“It was necessary because we need to remind people how we came to where we are now and the sacrifices that were made,” Beeler said.
LaRonda McWhorter, high school senior at Cleveland Early College, won the Presidential Award for the Student Essay Competition.
“I wrote my essay on how society can be improved and am very happy that I won,” McWhorter said.
McWhorter also believed the program was needed.
“I thought the program was educational,” McWhorter said. “I liked the way the students represented Martin Luther King in their own way.”
However, she does not believe that King would be pleased with the world today.
“We are not close to fulfilling his dream. With all the wars and killing, history is repeating itself,” McWhorter said.
LaDon Neal, sophomore public relations major and Harambe president, participated in the event as well. Neal and other members of Harambe performed a musical and spoken word performance.
“I think that it was a nice program,” Neal said. “A lot of hard work was put into it.”
Neal said it was nice to see King celebrated by more than just blacks.
“Martin Luther King Day symbolizes a breakthrough in African American history,” he said. “There was a time when black people couldn’t be recognized for anything they did unless it was negative.”
He disagrees with McWhorter and believes we are close to fulfilling King’s dream.
“We are definitely making strides,” Neal said. “I mean, Barack Obama is considering being President of the United States.”
Neal said he also believes that society needs to be reminded of those who put their lives on the line for freedom.
“A lot of people forget the importance,” he said. “A large majority of black people have no pride in the African American heritage.”
Contact ethnic affairs reporter Alexia Harris at [email protected]