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MVNU Hosts 15th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Breakfast

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio — The Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Committee hosted the 15th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Breakfast on the campus of Mount Vernon Nazarene University on Monday. The event brought community members together to reflect and receive messages on “Racial Reconciliation through the Lens of Dr. King’s Legacy” from many different perspectives.

Presented by MVNU and Kenyon College, community responses on the theme were delivered by MVNU President Dr. Henry Spaulding; Kenyon College President Dr. Sean Decatur; Mayor Richard K. Mavis, City of Mount Vernon; and Mayor Kachen Kimmel, Village of Gambier.

From Christian higher education to local government, each perspective included inspiring quotes from Dr. King and provided similar takeaways: Reconciliation starts when we live together as friends. Whether that means transforming oppressor into friend or to fight with love and aim to defeat an enemy’s evil, one must always go to the arena and fight to make our community a better place — especially when one is compelled by conscience to speak out, because “there comes a time when silence is betrayal.”

Keynote speaker Rev. Scott Elliott, J.D., pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Mount Vernon spoke on the reconciliation of racism in today’s world, adding that racism is as much an issue as it was in Dr. King’s years.

“With love, Dr. King sought justice … God-given rights are what is due to absolutely everyone,” Elliott said.

Elliott said that racial reconciliation begins when a person is better informed, can acknowledge one’s own mistakes regarding racism and is willing to fix them, actively listens to people of color, stands up and supports those who are working to make a difference, and take steps toward equality.

Essay contest awards were presented to local middle school and high school students from Mount Vernon City Schools who responded to the theme of “Racial Reconciliation through the Lens of Dr. King’s Legacy.” Winners in the middle school category were Celia Manning, first; Emilia Camp, second; and Tara Murray, third. In the high school category, Rachel Murray placed first; Julianna Burcham, second; and Harry Ogle, third.

The Beulah Apostolic Award of Excellence was presented to Ellamae Simmons, M.D., the first African-American woman to specialize in asthma, allergy, and immunology in the United States. She also worked as the first African-American female physician hired by Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco, California, where she worked as an allergist for more than two decades. Simmons recently published her biography at the age of 97, detailing her personal journey, “Overcome: My Life in Pursuit of a Dream.”

The Beulah Apostolic Award of Excellence was also presented to Catie Hayes, Director of Community and International Ministries at MVNU. A 2012 MVNU alumna, Hayes has taken her passion for meeting the needs of those around her and has applied it to her everyday work with students, faculty, and staff through pioneering campus community Justice Talks that highlight imperative conversations on issues of social justice, race and racism, the refugee crisis, human trafficking, and more. Hayes has led many teams on service trips to Cuba, Panama, Guyana, Swaziland, and in the U.S.

The Beulah Apostolic Award of Excellence was also presented to Rev. Scott Elliott. Since November 2013, Elliott has encouraged and led not only his own church body but the community as a whole into new conversations on equality and faith.

First-Knox National Bank Book Scholarship Award winners will be announced at a later date.

The closing prayer was presented by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry of the Episcopal Church.

Mount Vernon Nazarene University is a private, four-year, intentionally Christian teaching university for traditional age students, graduate students, and working adults. With a 327-acre main campus in Mount Vernon, Ohio, and several convenient Graduate and Professional Studies locations throughout the state, MVNU emphasizes academic excellence, spiritual growth, and service to community and church. MVNU offers an affordable education to more than 2,200 students from 32 states and 19 countries/U.S. territories.