Black power fists were confidently raised in the air during UT’s 18th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration Jan. 21.
Students, professors, alumni and community members filled the seats in Savage Arena to honor Dr. King and highlight black students’ talents and excellence.
The day began with a video of UT President Sharon Gaber addressing the room.
“We recognize that there is still much work to be done in helping Dr. King’s dream become a reality,” Gaber said in the video.
From intricate tribal dances to passionate spoken word poetry, to the loud thunder of the Scott High School band, the day was filled with promise. There were moments of power, silence and melancholy.
This was the first year that the Unity Day Celebration included UT’s Tribal Dance Team (T.R.I.B.E).
The team’s co-president, Nantenin Camara, said the dance performances had origins from Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon.
“It gave us the opportunity to expose different parts of West African dance expressions, which in tune supports MLK Jr. in his dream of bringing us all together,” Camara said.
Nick Stewart, a Toledo School for the Arts senior, joined the team at the beginning of the school year.
He said he was delighted to perform for the legacy of MLK Jr.
“When you come to think of it, I wouldn’t have had the opportunities to perform today if I was alive in the early 1900s,” Stewart said.
Lydia Myrick, a junior at Toledo School for the Arts, and Dontrell Gregory, a 15-year-old student at Rogers High School, co-wrote a spoken word piece titled, “I Am a Black Woman/Man.”
“When performing, it was a rush of adrenaline, and I was proud to be given a chance to speak about what was on my mind and to empower many,” Myrick said.
The two spent a month writing the piece together.
“It felt great to impact that many people at one time,” Gregory said. “Their reactions were priceless, and I loved everyone’s feedback.”
Their performance had the audience cheering in excitement.
During the celebrations, UT awarded scholarships to students through Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz and the African-American Leadership council of United Way.
The Fire Squad dance team performed to Stevie Wonder’s song “Happy Birthday.”
“Attending this event reminds you of the legacy [MLK Jr.] left behind, and the work we still have to do to keep it going,” Vice President of Fire Squad Mariah Mangum said.
She added that it was an honor to be asked to perform. Her team was proud of seeing the joy of the crowd.
The Scott High School band ended the event by performing “To the Left.”
One of their members, Alontae Mccarver, added it was important for people to attend the celebration to fully comprehend Martin Luther King Jr.’s impact on the world.