A former U.S. congressman delivered a message of hope, service and commitment as the keynote speaker at Wednesday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation.
“I didn’t come today to speak to the student body,” said Kendrick Meek, a 1989 graduate of Florida A&M who serves on the FAMU Foundation Board of Directors for American Medical Depot. “I came to speak to the FAMU family.”
Reflecting on important dates in history, Meek offered a brief timeline of monumental events in the fight for civil rights.
“I think that just talking about those few things could set the stage for what Dr. King did,” Meek said.
According to Meek, King consumed a meal of runny eggs and overcooked grits in a church basement in Tallahassee. King ate this meal as he worked with local pastor and activist Rev. C.K. Steele to create a day when people would have an opportunity to stand for what they believed in.
“It is important that we carry out his work right now,” Meek said. “I want to thank FAMU’s student body for standing up on behalf of this state.”
Dominique James, FAMU’s NAACP chapter president, offered what living out King’s dream meant to her.
“Dr. King inspired millions to stand up in a peaceful protest against segregation laws,” James said. “Are you living out his dream, or are you prolonging the nightmare?”
Meek emphasized that King’s movement was much greater than the FAMU community and African-American community.
His outreach was global, and he had supporters of all races and religious denominations, Meek said.
Jacoria Borders, who works in the student activities office, said she celebrates King because of his pivotal role in the civil rights movement.
“We show our appreciation to someone who lost their life so that we may all live a life of peace, liberty and equality,” Borders said.
Despite the many political offices Meek has held, he encouraged everyone to remember that “you don’t have to be elected to lead. The knife is sharp, but the responsibility is big.”
He challenged students to embody King’s principles and carry out his mission far beyond recognizing a holiday.
“This is about service,” Meek said. “This is about commitment. This is about remembering. This is about depth perception. This is about talking to people you wouldn’t normally talk to.”
The university issued three leadership awards to one student, one organization and one community leader. The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award went to FAMU alumna Althemese Barnes, the founder and executive director of the John G. Riley House and Museum.