Civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously urged us to “live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

It’s a message that still resonates with Americans today, as political discourse in the United States has at times become hostile, and differences in race, religion, and national origin continue to divide us.

Over the past week, Spartans made a concerted effort to answer the call of King – to come together, despite differences, to dialogue with one another and to serve the campus and the city of Greensboro.

The celebration of King’s life and legacy kicked off on Saturday with the annual UNC Greensboro MLK Day of Service, and culminated Wednesday night with a special evening program featuring keynote speaker Ilyasah Shabazz, author, activist, and daughter of Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz. The event was the seventh annual joint MLK Jr. Celebration presented by UNCG and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (A&T).

Group photo of students

Spartans pose for a group picture in Elliott University Center before being sent out to volunteer with community and campus partners.

Approximately 250 student volunteers spent their Saturday giving back to 15 community and campus organizations, including Greensboro Urban Ministry, the Guilford County Animal Shelter, Lindley Elementary School, and Spartan Open Pantry. The day of service was organized by UNCG’s Office of Leadership and Civic Engagement.

“Each year, our student registration fills up faster. It’s exciting to see that students don’t hesitate to participate in these days of service,” said Kristina Gage, assistant director for community engagement. “Not only do we reflect on Dr. King’s anti-racist and anti-poverty work, but we encourage students to really connect with one another and the organizations they’re working with.”

On Wednesday night, students from UNCG and A&T, as well as community members, filled UNCG Auditorium to hear from Shabazz.

Shabazz discussed the legacy of her father and King, and encouraged the audience to take responsibility in the education of children – to teach future generations to be principled, moral leaders who will fight for the human rights of all.

Photo of Ilyasah Shabazz meeting students, signing books

Ilyasah Shabazz participates in a meet-and-greet and book signing with students after her keynote speech.

She talked about the urgent need to ensure that school curricula are based on historical facts – that history books are an accurate, true reflection of the past.

And she highlighted the importance of educating ourselves.

“It is important that we invest in ourselves with a quality education, and right the wrongs in our society.”

Before the evening program, Shabazz spent time with faculty, staff, and student leaders from both universities. While reflecting on the conversations she had with students, Shabazz told the audience that she walked away “inspired.”

“If this is what student learning looks like, I can tell you that the future looks bright.”

 

Story by Alyssa Bedrosian, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications
Videography by Grant Evan Gilliard, University Communications