Brenau recognizes Black history, MLK Jr. legacy at winter convocation

Dr. Margie Gill and President Anne Skleder

Brenau University celebrated the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and honored Black History Month at its annual winter convocation on Thursday, Feb. 10.

Dr. Margie Gill speaks at the 2022 Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation
Dr. Margie Gill speaks at the 2022 Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Dr. Margie Gill, BU ’10, interim executive director of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives at Brenau and associate professor of psychology, was the keynote speaker. The event was co-sponsored by the Black Faculty and Staff Association and the Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.

“This movement is not a party of one. It’s a party of many,” Gill said to students, faculty and staff in Brenau’s Pearce Auditorium and those watching via live stream. “I often hear people say there’s strength in numbers, but no one really wants to step up to the plate. Nobody wants to lead. So you allow your dream to be dictated by somebody else. 

“Your chance to reset begins now. And we have a social responsibility to ourselves, our family, our community and our world. I’m standing here right now because I want others to know it’s OK to dream. Dream the dream. It doesn’t matter who believes in your dream and who doesn’t.”

Gill shared her experiences as a person of color, from her parents’ struggles in her hometown to being told in high school she’d make a good secretary. She pushed past prejudice and embraced openness to pursue her dreams, not just in her career but in her personal and family life.

A dance performance at the 2022 Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation
(AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

“When I think about Dr. King’s dream, I examine my role in his dream,” Gill said. “He sacrificed immensely. I had to learn that I would have to do the same if I want my children and my children’s children to live in a society that has just treatment, including equity, access, participation; harmony in wealth, health, education, housing, employment; and other opportunities. Anything that promotes a thriving society.”

In addition to Gill’s talk, Brenau dance students and the university’s gospel choir performed during the convocation. Sheena Weghorn, assistant professor of psychology, led the invocation with a poem she wrote.

“Whether it’s in doing rather than seeming like a decent person, actions speak louder than words,” Weghorn said. “And sometimes for the ones you love, action requires interception of rampant hatred from a mouth that might just convince them. But even if not, your actions are then ones of freedom, justice, of that old golden rule.” 

In her poem, Weghorn recited the names of Black people who were killed, such as Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.

The gospel choir at the 2022 Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation
(AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

“So that happened, that was real, not a nightmare, not fiction, reckless hatred wielded so casually I’m really searching for a reason. Ears ringing, heart racing, muscles teaming, ready to defend, but the threat isn’t physical. Rather, it’s crippling and disgusting ideas.”

The Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation was rescheduled from January, when classes were temporarily virtual, so students, faculty and staff could attend in person. 

The BFSA, which held a post-convocation virtual discussion featuring Gill, has several other events planned for Black History Month and the spring semester, including monthly Narrative Circles designed to foster communication and reflection and a kente robing ceremony April 28.