Senator Carol Moseley Braun delivers keynote during MLK Day of Service

NCSSM celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a day of service activities, sessions centered on diversity and inclusion, and community-building conversations. The day culminated in a campus-wide MLK Day Celebration assembly, featuring a keynote address by former U.S. Senator and Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun and the presentation of this year’s Keeper of the Dream Awards. 

The day continues NCSSM’s long-standing tradition of honoring the day as a day on, not a day off. “We hope the day gives everyone an opportunity to think about what [Dr. King’s] legacy means for us as NCSSM community members and as global citizens in 2018,” says Terry Lynch, vice chancellor for student life at NCSSM.

Students and staff began the day with service activities, teaming up with a dozen organizations throughout the Triangle to give back to the community. Together, NCSSM students, faculty, and staff volunteered 441.25 hours of service with 12 organizations within the Triangle. Despite the cold temperatures, many service groups ventured outside to participate in volunteer activities with groups like Plant It Forward and the Triangle Land Conservancy.

Another group of students participated in the United Way of the Greater Triangle Day of Service at North Carolina Central University, preparing meals, winter blankets, and educational tools for residents of Durham County. Students also volunteered at the MLK Day Community Breakfast in Durham, and with organizations like the Ronald McDonald House, Wrenn House, and Urban Ministries. On campus, NCSSM students helped children of staff members explore “Martin’s Big Words” through poetry, art, and dance.

See an album of the day’s activities on Facebook.

The day continued with morning and afternoon small groups sessions for students on campus. Students joined together to honor the legacy of Dr. King through discussions, documentary screenings, and interactive activities. Students studied the speeches of Dr. King, discussed current issues surrounding racism and activism, and addressed topics of diversity and inclusion through the music and the arts.

The afternoon concluded with a community-wide MLK Day Celebration assembly, with a keynote address given by former U.S. Senator and Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun. “We are so very fortunate to have with us this afternoon an amazing keynote speaker–Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun,” said Chancellor Todd Roberts as he opened the assembly, “who is a pioneer and whose actions have improved the lives of people in our country and the relationships between our country and others for so many years.”

Among many other accomplishments, Ambassador Braun was the first female African-American Senator (serving from 1993-1999), the first African-American U.S. Senator for the Democratic Party, and the first female Senator from Illinois. She also served as U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa. Braun shared her own story, as a self-described “recovering politician,” a lawyer, and now as an entrepreneur and professor. Braun, who marched with Dr. King in Chicago, also shared stories of growing up in segregated Alabama.

Braun had this message to share with students: “What you do, what you say, what you think matters. … Your decisions drive outcomes. You create the future with your actions.” She concluded by saying, “My only appeal is that you choose to do. Whatever role you take, your participation in the conversation today, will create the future our world will inherit tomorrow.”

Watch Ambassador Braun’s MLK Day keynote address

During the assembly, Chancellor Todd Roberts also announced this year’s Keeper of the Dream Award winners—Micca Pace, research associate, and Dr. Michael Brandon, instructor of humanities. This award is given to employees or friends of the school who, during their service to the institution and school community, have facilitated positive race relations; exhibited leadership in advancing mutual respect, understanding, and appreciation for cultural and ethnic diversity; encouraged and engaged in off-campus outreach activities; and exemplified compassion, goodwill, courage, or leadership.

Presenting the award to Pace, Chancellor Roberts read from nominations. Through her work in Distance Education & Extended Programs, he read, “Ms. Pace is a strong advocate for broadening access to as many students as possible. Specifically, she has led efforts to increase the recruitment of diverse and underrepresented students to the program. In all of her work as a research associate, Ms. Pace brings a lens of equity and social justice to important research questions that inform policy and practice at NCSSM. She is truly committed to uncovering ways we can continue to learn and grow as an institution and to ensure that each and every student succeeds.”

Watch the video: Micca Pace receives the Keeper of the Dream Award

Presenting the award to Brandon, Chancellor Roberts again read from nominations, saying, “It’s hard to capture in two pages and a few hundred words the passion and energy that Dr. Brandon exudes. All we can say is, that if anyone on campus wants an intelligent, engaging discussion on race relations–or basketball–Dr. Brandon is the man to visit. And if anyone wants to drive hundreds of miles to march against inequality, Dr. Brandon is the man to visit. And that if anyone wants to understand what it means to unyieldingly dedicate oneself to improving a community, Dr. Brandon is the man to watch.”

Watch the video: Michael Brandon receives the Keeper of the Dream Award

In his remarks, Chancellor Roberts noted the efforts by NCSSM students, not just on that day, but every day. “While I am always impressed by what our students achieve academically, I am always equally or more impressed by what I see you do for each other, your communities, and our community,” he said. “I believe that NCSSM students exemplify Dr. King’s view that ‘intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character is the true goal of education.”

Chancellor Roberts concluded the assembly by thanking the community for making the day one of learning, discussion, and celebrating the legacy of Dr. King through caring and service to others. “I want to say thank you to each of you in the NCSSM community for your work today and what you do each day to help our community, our state, and our country continue working to achieve the dream of Dr. King.”