On Thursday, January 26, 2017, Kean University's Office of Africana Studies got a jump start on African American History Month as it hosted its annual Dr. Martin Luther King Celebration in the Little Theatre in the Miron Student Center (MSC).
Just shortly after 12:30 p.m., Dr. James Conyers, director of the Office of Africana Studies, welcomed the guests who filled seats and eagerly awaited the day's commemoration of Dr. King's life and contributions to the Civil Rights Movement. After giving a brief but detailed introduction on the ceremony's guest speaker, Dr. Conyers welcomed Reverend Manuel K. Donelson to the podium.
A Kean University alumnus and the founder and lead pastor of Expect A Miracle Ministries in Linden, N.J., Rev. Donelson gave a lecture titled "Confined but not Convicted: A Letter From Birmingham Jail." He started his address by reciting a quote from Dr. King, which read, "History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."
The powerful quote segued to a video showing Dr. King's involvement in the Civil Rights Movement in the segregated south during the 1960s, a turbulent period in U.S. history. Dr. King’s persistent call for unity was a central theme throughout his short but influential life, especially when he penned his seminal Letter From Birmingham Jail.
Following the video, Rev. Donelson shared that his intent was not to dissect Dr. King's letter, but rather to let the video depict the events leading to and resulting from the call for unity. The letter was inspired by the Birmingham campaign's efforts to unite African Americans and bring an end to segregation in the south, and resulted in the Children's Crusade where high school students marched for civil rights.
As Rev. Donelson concluded his lecture, he challenged the audience to start getting involved in their communities in order to start changing the world for the better. This point was driven home when the reverend stated, "You can't help out nationally if you don't help out locally."
To learn more about the Africana Studies Department, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 908-737-3915.