Kohawks Reflect on Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

By: Jeana Quinlan

In addition to canceling classes for the day, Coe College sponsored a virtual Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration alongside St. Paul’s United Methodist Church. The celebration included reflections and speeches from local faith leaders and students from Coe and Mount Mercy. The evening also included performances by the Coe Concert Choir, the Mt. Zion Men’s Chorus, and an awards presentation.

Daion Epps ‘24, John Patton ‘24, and Ausar Alexander ‘23 were the three Coe students that shared their reflections on the holiday and Dr. King’s legacy. 

“Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man of great resilience when it came to advocating for African-Americans during the Jim Crow era,” said Epps.

“During that time, he gave 2,500 speeches…he led many pickets, marches, and protests…he opened doors for many people throughout the world.”

“The time is always right to do what is right,” said John Patton ‘24, quoting Dr. King.

Patton, a History major with minors in Secondary Education and Music, hopes to bring about the type of change that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. tirelessly fought for in his lifetime.

“Change has been happening, it is happening, it is going to happen, it needs to happen,” said Patton.

“Change is a part of this world, change is a part of everyone’s everyday lives, it is a part of all things considered— everything. And the one thing that brings about change…was hope. Hope and change can coexist, hope creates change, change can lead to hope.”

Ausar Alexander ‘23 was the last of the Coe students to speak, reflecting on some lesser-known facts about the late civil rights leader.

“Martin Luther King, Jr. was originally born Michael Luther King, Jr. in 1929. [He] did not change his name…until as an adult, when he got his passport.”

Alexander reflected on the striking connection between Dr. King’s life and death.

“It seemed that Dr. King’s life was ordained at birth by God that he both struggle and be triumphant. When Dr. King was born, he was so quiet that they feared he was stillborn.” said Alexander.

Alexander urged the audience to strive to live life following King’s example of peace, desegregation, and non-violence.

In addition to these reflections, two members of the Linn County community were recognized for their commitment to social justice, faith, and living in harmony with others. Kayla Purchase, a high school senior at Linn-Mar, and Janessa Carr, a counselor at Linn-Mar, were presented with Dr. Percy and Lileah Harris ‘Who is My Neighbor’ awards.

“It feels good to be recognized when you become involved in work that makes some feel like they finally have a voice, but also makes you a target to those who believe you are causing trouble in the city,” said Carr.

I would not work in a community if all hope was lost there. Is it easy? Absolutely not. But there are people…who are committed to justice and equity, and people who are okay with challenging oppressive systems.”

The celebration concluded with a performance of the song “We Shall Overcome” by the Coe Concert Choir. A recording of the celebration is available on the St. Paul’s UMC CR YouTube page.

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