YSU Remembers MLK Jr. Through Observance Day

Juan Rivera, pastor at Victory Christian Center in Coitsville, speaks at the annual MLK Day of Observance in the Chestnut Room of Kilkawley. Photo by Kamron Meyers/The Jambar

By Tina Kalenits

On Jan. 20, the nation remembered the words and legacy Martin Luther King Jr. left behind. 

To commemorate him, Youngstown State University students joined hands on Jan. 16 in the Chestnut Room of Kilcawley Center to remember the powerful and nonviolent messages King believed and preached.

King fought against segregation and racism, and he believed in nonviolence and equality for everyone

“Dr. King once declared, ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. And hatred cannot drive out hatred. Only love can do that,’” Juan Rivera, pastor of Victory Christian Center in Coitsville, said.

Eddie Howard pictured with President Jim Tressel. Photo by Kamron Meyers/The Jambar

Rivera was the keynote speaker of the event and said King’s “I Have a Dream” speech still resonates 50 years later.

“As we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we likewise recognize the fact that over 50 years after he delivered a speech that serves as a prophetic supposition for an entire generation,” Rivera said.

He said it’s crucial to remember King’s messages and that every person matters. 

“Whatever your major, your profession, your ethnicity, your background, your upbringing, your gender, your experience, your past or your history, be light by being who you are,” Rivera said. “You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are not defined by your past, by your upbringing, your circumstances or your laugh.”

Eddie Howard, vice president of student affairs, said King spoke against any segregation and believed that a system only works if all parts are working together.

Award receipients pictured at the MLK Day of Observance. Photo by Kamron Meyers/The Jambar

“Our hope today is to create an experience that is one that will bring people together. The goal is to help people understand the importance of Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy,” Howard said. 

Howard said King would be excited to see events like what was held at YSU.

“To have something that reminds us of the importance of how important it is for us to come together and connect, that we’re stronger as a unit as opposed to separate parts, is the piece that I think that Martin Luther King would be excited at,” Howard said.

YSU President Jim Tressel said it is a special day for YSU students in remembering a powerful voice amid segregation. 

“Our desire to make sure that we do an extraordinary job observing the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. is important to our campus,” he said.

Tressel said everyone in the Youngstown community is currently on a journey “to make sure that every single person in this community is appreciated and treated properly and respected and challenged.”

Stefanie Marek, a sophomore media communications major, said she learned more about King’s life through the event.

Juan Rivera, pastor at Victory Christian Center in Coitsville, speaks at the annual MLK Day of Observance in the Chestnut Room of Kilkawley. Photo by Kamron Meyers/The Jambar

“I thought it was very moving. … I thought that the keynote speaker was very funny,” Marek said. “And he incorporated a lot of his, like, aspects of his life about immigrating to the U.S., which I thought was really neat. This was all about equality for everyone.” 

 Marek said her favorite moment of the ceremony happened at the end.

“I really liked how everyone linked arms and we, like, swayed,” Marek added. “I recommend going to next year if we do another one.”

On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was fatally shot. King would have turned 91 this month.