K-State’s oldest Martin Luther King Jr. program, the MLK Memorial and Candlelight Vigil, was held Wednesday night in Forum Hall. The annual event is hosted by the Kappa Tau chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
“While I’m not sure of exactly when the vigil started, I know we’ve been doing it since the early ’80s, which makes it our chapters oldest program,” said Brandon Clark, the chapter’s adviser, program coordinator for the Office of Diversity and the state director for Alpha Phi Alpha.
The ceremony began with cultural entertainment that included a praise dance by campus organization Exalted Praise Invokes Christ; an African dance by Kabila Ghana, senior in chemical engineering; and a spoken word poem, “Dear Dr. Martin,” by Justice Davis, sophomore in marketing and public relations.
“We’ve been doing this program to commemorate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, who is a brother of our fraternity,” Jacar Union, senior in American ethnic studies, said. “It is our small way of saying thank you for everything he has done.”
Each year, the men of Alpha Phi Alpha bring in a highly renowned speaker to engage the program’s audience. This year featured Wintley Augustus Phipps, a world-renowned vocal artist, pastor, motivational speaker and education activist. He is also the founder, president and CEO of the U.S. Dream Academy, Inc., a national nonprofit after-school program that provides mentoring and tutoring around the country to children of incarcerated parents and children falling behind in school. For all of his service around the nation, Phipps has been awarded the Oprah Winfrey Angel Network Use Your Life Award, the Excellence in Mentoring for Program Leadership Award, Philanthropist of the Year Award and the Distinguished Service Award from Loma Linda University. Phipps was also nominated for a Grammy Award in 1988 and 1989.
Phipps used his personal testimony, of starting with nothing and achieving success by following his dreams, to motivate his audience about the power of a dream. Phipps spoke on how he has been privileged to sing for national icons such as Oprah Winfrey, Rosa Parks and every U.S. president since 34th President Dwight Eisenhower. Throughout the night, Phipps used his deep baritone to take the audience through his past experiences and journeys within his ministry and music.
Phipps wrapped up his lecture singing “Wade in the Water,” with a little crowd participation, and was afterwards rewarded with the chapter’s highest award, the Brandon L. Clark Alpha Excellence Award.
After Phipps finished, the Kappa Tau chapter brothers conducted the candle lighting part of the ceremony. Each brother took his turn lighting candles that represented love, repentance, memory, hope, thankfulness and commitment.
Audience members were left with something to reflect on as they exited auditorium.
“To be in the presence of a man who has met literally every influential powerful figure except Martin Luther King is a blessing,” Toria Freeman, senior in kinesiology, said.