Martin Luther King Jr. celebrated with lecture focused on racial equity by the Center for Global Education and Diversity

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Beacon Archive

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The Wilkes University Center for Global Education and Diversity held a lecture with the theme of continuing on the path to racial equity by honoring Martin Luther King Jr. on Feb. 23. 

Georgia Costalas, from the Center for Global Education and Diversity, opened the lecture by explaining the theme this year as a reflection on the work that still has yet to be done to pave the way for racial equity. 

Costalas first introduced President Dr. Greg Cant, who delivered opening remarks. 

Cant began by noting that his memory and knowledge of leaders like King came “from a very different shore.” He explained that it was only in the past 20 years while living in the United States that he began to confront the many inequalities African Americans face. 

“It’s easy to focus on the overwhelming nature of the challenges we face; however, what I learned of the life of Martin Luther King was his profound belief in the power of hope and that we can change society,” Cant said. “He believed that ultimately light would overcome darkness.”

Kristin Osipower, Wilkes’ interfaith coordinator, then gave an invocation for the event.  

Kathrine Ermeus, a first-year political science major, sang the national anthem followed by Judah Lyles, first-year musical theater and dance major, who sang the black national anthem.

Angela Jones, the co-chair of Wilkes University’s Council on Diversity, Inclusion and Equity, discussed one of King’s lesser-known speeches, “What Is Your Life’s Blueprint,” given to Barrett Junior High School students in 1967. 

Jones explained that the speech provided students with a model of how to become respectable and respectful people. This model came with three instructions: To have a deep belief in one’s dignity; to strive for excellence in one’s work; and to commit to the principles of beauty, love and justice. 

Jones commented on the final instruction. 

“I encourage us all to model the principles of beauty, love and justice that Dr. Martin Luther King told us about,” said Jones. “Let our students see us take steps to improve the lives of others and help them to be involved in the struggle for justice, whether that takes the form of vigils and activities on campus or community outreach.” 

Micah Burton, sophomore hospitality major, then introduced keynote speaker Woodly Augustine. Augustine is a 2018 Wilkes graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. During his time at Wilkes, he was a member of the football team and a two-time captain of the lacrosse team. Augustine continued his education at the University of Scranton and is planning to graduate this spring with a master’s of science in school counseling. 

The topic of Augustine’s lecture was racial equity in public schools. He began by clarifying the difference between equality and equity. 

“With equality, everyone is receiving the same level of education, the same treatment, but for all, that’s not enough, you know,” Augustine said. “We all need different resources.” 

He then brought up the analogy his football coach used, describing everyone as a snowflake in which no two are the same. Augustine explained that each student is like a snowflake with different needs. Equity is giving the students the individualized resources they need, not the same resources all other students get.

Augustine also discussed the history that led to the racial disparity in educational resources for students, explaining the segregation of schools in the 1950s. He then noted the importance of the court case Brown v. the Board of Education, which deemed segregation of schools unconstitutional. 

Augustine ended his lecture by urging attendees to practice equity and not simply equality. 

“We can meet people where they are and provide the tools needed to be successful,” Augustine said.  “All we need is a small spark because over time a small spark ignites change.”

After Augustine finished, sophomore history and musical theater major Aariyana Gould sang “Amazing Grace,” followed by closing remarks from Erica Acosta, associate director of diversity initiatives. 

Acosta thanked those who spoke, sang and attended the lecture and ended it with a call to unity. 

“I can tell you that sometimes we might not agree with our brothers and sisters, our family members, our community members, but we must find some unity – some middle ground – in order to continue to the path of racial equity because without that we are not able to move forward as a nation, as the committee, as an institution or even asked human beings,” said Acosta. 

Ana Perez, a senior digital design and media art student, commented on the lecture. 

“As Hispanic myself, I perfectly understand the struggles of minorities,” said Perez. “After watching this lecture and listening to all the comments and speeches, I felt proud that the university I chose takes into consideration the different problems minorities face during their lives and decided to take serious action to help them achieve their goals.”