Martin Luther King Jr.’s message remembered

By Jenay Smith
January 26, 2012

Stephanie Reed and Dr. Brian Johnson pose for photo at Cabrini’s MLK day program.

Surviving on education alone is not the key to success; you have to balance education with your faith, humility and the ability to rise to the occasion.

“We are only merely apart of a larger movement,” Dr. Brian Johnson, Assistant Provost and assistant vice president for Academic Affairs & chair of the University Wide Diversity Task Force of Austin Peay State, said.

Even though Cabrini was closed on Martin Luther King Day, there was an MLK program awaiting them when students returned to campus.

“I wanted to do something to recognize the MLK holiday even though our institution was closed on that particular day, the rest of the country celebrated the holiday,” Stephanie Reed, director of Student Diversity Initiatives, said. “I feel like we could use some time during the first week of class to at least recognize it.”

The Office of Student Diversity Initiatives and the Wolfington Center sponsored a discussion, which was led by Dr. Johnson.

Dr. Johnson is an old friend from college of Reed’s. She invited Johnson to speak because of his knowledge of African American history and his ability to engage students and faculty alike.

Dr. Johnson is a well-respected historian who has earned many awards including the Tennessee Board of Regents Maxine Smith Fellowship for rising senior administrators in 2010 and an UNCF/Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Research Fellowship in 2008.

Johnson received his doctoral degree in English at the University of South Carolina, his masters in English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a bachelor’s degree in English at Johnson C. Smith University.

Among these prestigious accomplishments, he is the author of W.E.B. Du Bois: Toward Agnosticism (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2008).

Johnson gave a presentation entitled Equity Social Justice & our Faith: Continuing MLK’s work at a faith based Institution.

His seven main points were demonstrated as quotes from W.E.B Du Bois, Fredrick Douglas and Martin Luther King.

Johnson opened up with his first point which was a quote by Dr. King: “The ultimate solution is not intellectual but spiritual, for after climbing atop of the speculative ladder (of reason), you must leap out into the darkness of faith.”

He explained that you need more than education to make it through life, faith is just as important. Many believe that intellectual skills are the key to success and that they don’t need faith.

There was also some appreciation among the faculty who attended the event.

“I’ve already received some feedback from administrators and they were grateful,” Reed said. “They thought that he was exciting engaging and very thought provoking.”

Some student’s felt that the presentation gave them a deeper insight and helped them look at their college career in a different way.

“It was really informative,” senior phycology major,” TaRaja Davis said. She went on to say that the quotes that were used were very informative and helped her view her senior year in a new light.

Other topics he talked about were making sure all people of different ethnicities and backgrounds are included in all aspects of the institution.

He brought to light how secular institutions are mandated to make sure there are certain percentages of each race in their institution. Catholic institutions are not mandated to do this.

They should encourage this initiative because it’s simply what a Catholic institution should be about, making sure all different types of people are included and represented.

Quiana Volney, senior business administration major, was blown away by the whole presentation and wanted to know how the faculty could encourage students to diversify their campus.

Johnson’s response was simple.

“You may not like my encouragement,” Johnson said. “My encouragement is not going to go to the faculty and staff my encouragement is going to go right back to you.”

He went on to say that students were at the center and forefront of many movements. Once the students get involved faculty will fall behind in support.

Throughout the whole presentation there were many people intently listening to Johnson’s insight and direction.

“I’m convinced that when you start something that’s powerful and most importantly right you’re not going to be alone,” Johnson said.

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Jenay Smith

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