Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addresses a crowd at University of Minnesota

Martin Luther King Jr. Day at Brenau

Due to our revised academic calendar and the constraints of the pandemic, our celebration of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and Black History Month will be commemorated differently this year. Now more than ever, Dr. King’s example of “unarmed truth and unconditional love” needs to be widely celebrated. Beginning with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Jan. 18 and continuing throughout the month of February, Brenau will host events to highlight and celebrate the impact of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement.

The Week of Martin Luther King Day

All week long

The Brenau Trustee Library has created a LibGuide featuring:

Later in the week

Outdoor art and quotes from Dr. King all over campus as weather permits.

Monday, Jan. 25, between 10:45 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Professor Claudia Wilburn will set up in Yonah Lobby to paint a portrait of Dr. King as part of our ongoing celebrations.

All members of the campus community are welcome to stop by to watch and chat at a safe distance.

Flyer for "Do it yourself" Civil Rights Film Festival. For more info visit libguides.brenau.edu/MLK/

Although we cannot physically come together at this time to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we hope that you will participate in these virtual events and review the vast resources provided.

Recent celebrations and expressions of Dr. King’s Legacy at Brenau

Justice Leah Ward Sears

September 2020 – Leah Ward Sears

In September 2020, Brenau was honored to welcome former Georgia Supreme Court Justice Leah Ward Sears to speak as part of The Women’s College of Brenau University’s GOLD Speaker Series.

Justice Sears was the first woman and youngest justice to serve on the state’s Supreme Court, the first woman to serve as a superior court judge in Fulton County and the first woman to win a contested statewide election in Georgia. In 2005, Sears became the first African American woman to serve as chief justice of any state supreme court in the country.

“One person could make a huge, huge difference,” Sears said during the virtual talk held via Zoom. “All it takes sometimes is just one person. One person with a little bit of courage. One person who’s willing to do what somebody else is not going to do. One person can save a child’s life who might be floundering with one little whisper into the ear.”

More resources

June 2020 – The Formation of the DEIE

In the wake of the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and many others, Brenau University, her students, faculty, staff and administration committed to ensuring that Brenau is moving forward not only as a campus in which racism is not tolerated but also as an anti-racist campus.

To that end, the Working Group for Diversity, Equity and Inclusive Excellence was formed. Drs. Margie Gill and Amanda Lammers are heading the development of short- and longer-term strategies for diversity, equity and inclusive excellence at Brenau University.

More resources
Drs. Margie Gill, left, and Amanda Lammers will lead the development of short- and longer-term strategies for diversity, equity and inclusive excellence at Brenau University. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

May 2020 – Student-led Black Lives Matter protest

In May 2020, Black Students of Gainesville, comprised of students from local universities, organized a peaceful protest against racism and raised their voices for justice. Brenau students and faculty, along with other community members, spoke at the event.

January 2020 – Darlene Drew Speaks at MLK Jr. Convocation

Drew grew up as the youngest of 11 children on the south side of Chicago. After becoming the first member of her family to go to college, she went on to work in the prison system. Although she faced doubt and discrimination, Drew continued to practice and perfect her skill and went on to become the first and only female to serve as warden at the United States Penitentiary, Atlanta.

“When I think of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s work, what he did for us and how we still benefit from it today,” Drew said, “I look at myself and say, ‘What am I doing? What can I do better?’ And I hope as we celebrate events like this, that each one of us search ourselves and say, ‘What is it that I can do better?’”

The convocation also featured a dance performance choreographed by Department of Dance Chair Madia Cooper-Ashirifi, featuring student dancers, some of whom donned paper bags over their heads or signs with the names of historic victims of lynchings.

More Resources

Read our coverage of the event.

January 2019 – MLK Jr. Convocation

At the winter convocation in observance of Martin Luther King Jr., Day, Victor Wilson, vice president of student affairs at the University of Georgia, was the keynote speaker. The theme of his speech, “United Front,” was chosen to encourage students to let their diversity be their strength while working together for a better world.

Wilson said he was thrilled to share a part of his story while reflecting on King’s life and stressed the importance of “showing up” for others. 

More resources

Read the article about 2019 MLK Convocation.

Stacey Abrams and Margie Gill

October 2018 – Stacey Abrams visits Gainesville campus

In the run up to the 2018 midterm elections, the Brenau College Democrats and Brenau College Republicans invited their candidates to speak in Pearce Auditorium. Stacey Abrams, Sarah Riggs Amico, Josh McCall and Charlie Bailey agreed to come and speak with our students.

March 2018 – Deborah Mack speaks at Women’s Leadership Colloquium

As a part of The Women’s College of Brenau University’s annual Women’s Leadership Colloquium, Deborah Mack spoke to the audience about defining moments in her life and career. Mack is a well-known activist and servant leader in her native Gainesville, Georgia.

Mack graduated from Spelman College and became the first African American to work at the Georgia Department of Labor in Gainesville.

Mack is a founding member and past president of Gateway Domestic Violence Center and of WomenSource, a local organization designed to create personal and professional success for women of all ages and backgrounds in Northeast Georgia.

More resources

Watch Ms. Mack speak during the Women’s Leadership Colloquium.

Read more about the 2018 Women’s Leadership Colloquium.

January 2018 – MLK Jr. Convocation

The annual winter MLK convocation featured performances by the Brenau Department of Dance and the Gospel Choir, as well as a poetry reading by officers of the Black Student Association and a keynote speech by Dr. Martha Sales, executive director of TRIO Programs and the Intercultural Student Engagement Center at Western Kentucky University.

Sale shared stories from her childhood, such as growing up in a community in Kentucky where people didn’t look like her, her high school guidance counselor telling her “she shouldn’t think about college,” and how her parents solicited the help of people from church to tutor Sales.

Today, Sales holds four degrees and uses her education to support young people through the TRIO programs, which assist low-income and first-generation students through the post-secondary education process. 

Sales’ address was playfully themed “Wake Up and Stay Woke,” and she reminded students that while much has been accomplished since the days of Dr. King, “There is still too much work to do.”

“The work there is to be done can only be done by you,” she said. “We are living in and enjoying the dream Dr. King had. But sometimes in dreaming, we can become settled.”

January 2017 – MLK Jr. Convocation

The 2017 winter MLK Jr. Convocation was held in Pearce Auditorium, and the theme was “United Toward the Dream.” The convocation included performances by the Brenau Gospel Choir, dance students along with then-Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance and current Chair Madia Cooper-Ashirifi, as well as visiting performer Kofi Mawuko. Students, staff, faculty and administration members joined together in a dance celebrating unity and promoting peace.

Brenau alumna Tomyka Chaney, an award-winning Atlanta entrepreneur and business development partner and founder of Best BOOM! Strategies, discussed King’s role as a trainer and developer, and the skills that allowed him to change the world for the better. She challenged the students to harness their own skills, as King did, and to follow his lead.

“Dr. King was a great writer,” Chaney said. “His intellectual property was what allowed him to make a difference, and it is still part of his legacy. Being able to take a moment and truly articulate the times – how many of us do that? But we can all work on our hard skills, and like Dr. Martin Luther King did, we can all do the work, think outside the box and make a difference.”

More resources

See more photos in our post Convocation honors Martin Luther King Jr. with dancing, singing and guest speaker.

October 2016 – Vigil for Lives Lost

Brenau students, faculty, staff and administration members joined together on Oct. 18, 2016, to honor and remember the lives of African Americans from Georgia who lost their lives due to violence and other miscarriages of the justice system. Then-Brenau President Ed Schrader opened the event with a few remarks, followed by a prayer from Stephen Samuel, pastor at St. John Baptist Church. Students contributed with spoken-word performances by Jalaa Holt and Gloria Clark, comments by Peyton Edmond and a reading of names by Kenya Hunter. The event concluded with a moment of silence around the Grace Hooten Moore Memorial Fountain.

More resources

See more photos in the news post ‘Brenau Comes Together to Honor Lives Lost’.

January 2016 – MLK Jr. Convocation

On Jan. 19, 2016, Brenau welcomed Dr. Lori S. White, vice chancellor for students at Washington University in St. Louis and one of the nation’s leading experts on diversity in higher education, as keynote speaker at its annual MLK Jr. convocation.

White said the teachings and principles King promoted and held dear have just as much significance in today’s America as they did half a century ago. And that message, she said, is something especially relevant to college students.

“It is so important for us to continue to reflect on King’s life and the continuing impact of his work on us today,” White said. “I’d love to be able to help bring him and his message alive, for current and future generations.”

More resources

Read more in MLK Convocation Speaker Lori White Preaches ‘The Power of One’.

Dr. Lori S. White, one of the nation's leading experts on diversity in higher education, is the keynote speaker at Brenau University's annual convocation celebrating the life and teachings of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

November 2015 – BSA Demonstration inspired by incidents at Missouri University

In November 2015, Brenau’s Black Student Association organized a demonstration inspired by the events and protests against racism at the University of Missouri.

More resources

Learn more about the 2015-2016 University of Missouri protests and the events and context that sparked them.

March 2015 – First Year Seminar Focuses on Civil Rights

In March 2015, First Year Seminar students focused on the Civil Rights Movement.

Throughout the class, students visited the Civil Rights Museum in Atlanta, read March, a graphic novel based on the life of Georgia politician and civil rights leader John Lewis, and participated in Reacting to the Past, a role-playing game that lets students act out pivotal moments of the era in class.

January 2015 – The Ties that Bind: Civil Rights Photography from the High Museum of Art”

In late 2014 and early 2015, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta loaned Brenau Galleries several photographs from its permanent collection that follow the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and highlight community in the fight for freedom.

Further back

February 1994 – The Rev. Bernice A. King Speaks at Brenau

The Rev. Bernice A. King, the youngest child of Coretta Scott King and the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., lectured before a crowd of more than 650 people on Feb. 15, 1994, in Pearce Auditorium.

“We celebrate Black History Month because there are those in the African American communities that realize that in order for young African Americans to grow up with self-esteem they need to know who they are and that they came from great kings and queens,” she said.

“If we’re going to be the country we say we are, we have to reach across these superficial boundaries like race, sex … and feed each other.”

From ‘Brenau Window‘ Winter 1994

Detail from page 9 of the Winter 1994 issue of Brenau Window

February 2015 – Brenau Celebrates Black History Month

In addition to the visit by the Rev. Bernice A. King, Brenau celebrated Black History Month with a variety of other events including an art exhibit, a performance by folk musicians “Joyce & Jacque” and the show “1001 Black Inventions” by theatre company “Pinpoints.”

May 1994 – AKA Earns Charter at Brenau

On May 14, 1994, after three years of work by students, Alpha Kappa Alpha earned its charter from the national Alpha Kappa Alpha organization for a chapter at Brenau.

“It’s a long time coming and we’re just really glad that it’s finally happening” said Terrinell Lyons, 1993-94 AKA president.

From the Summer 1994 issue of ‘Brenau Window

Page 5 of the Summer 1994 issue of 'Brenau Window'