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UCA hosts annual prayer breakfast ahead of King Holiday

The University of Central Arkansas hosted its annual MLK Prayer Breakfast at the Ronnie Williams Student Center on Jan. 14, as part of the national observation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Miss UCA 2022 Nia Kelley performs "Lift Every Voice and Sing."

Miss UCA 2022 Nia Kelley performs “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

Dozens of attendees gathered for the event, now in its 14th year. To mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, guests were spaced out and seated theater-style and received their breakfasts in to-go containers. Individuals also wore masks, as the university uses a weekly alert system that indicates whether masks are required in campus indoor spaces.

“As we pause to celebrate Dr. King, we also pause to self-reflect and think about what foundation we are laying for tomorrow’s generation,” said Charlotte Rainey Parham, an assistant professor in the UCA Department of Leadership Studies and emcee for the event. “Even if we don’t see the immediate impact, we have to continue to do the right thing.” 

Stephen Feldman, professor of cello, performs two musical selections: "Amazing Grace" and "We Shall Overcome."

Stephen Feldman, professor of cello, performs two musical selections: “Amazing Grace” and “We Shall Overcome.”

Miss UCA 2022 Nia Kelley led the audience in a rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and Stephen Feldman, professor of cello, performed “Amazing Grace” and “We Shall Overcome.”

UCA President Houston Davis acknowledged several dignitaries at the event including Steve Wright, a field representative for U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton; Hunter Sadler, a district representative for U.S. Rep. French Hill; Ark. State Sen. Missy Irvin; Ark. State Rep. Stephen Magie; Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood; Circuit Judge David Clark; Pastor Cornell Maltbia, member of UCA Board of Trustees; and Faulkner County NAACP President Franklin Holbrook. 

Arkansas State Rep. Jamie Scott gave a keynote address reiterating the “Better Together” theme with echoes of King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech. 

“Dreams do not stand in isolation,” Scott said. “Dreams require us to believe and work in courageous collaboration together…Dreams require us to face the difficulties as they are presented today and then face them again tomorrow. In order to turn our dreams for humanity equality into reality, we must act, we must do, we must stand, we must speak up and not dream lying down”

Scott urged the audience to be courageous about collaboration and be a champion for the change of which King spoke. 

“Shutting out certain voices weakens us all,” Scott said. “Coming together, respecting all perspectives – whether you agree with them or not – makes us better as a state. We should look to Dr. King’s example to move us forward.”  

Arkansas State Rep. Jamie Scott was the guest speaker at the 2022 Martin Luther King, Jr. Prayer Breakfast at the University of Central Arkansas held on Friday, Jan. 14, 2022.

Arkansas State Rep. Jamie Scott was the guest speaker at the 2022 Martin Luther King, Jr. Prayer Breakfast at the University of Central Arkansas held on Friday, Jan. 14, 2022.

“The committee came up with the theme “Better Together” for this year’s event because we realized that there has been more division in the country lately,” Angela Jackson, director of the Office of Diversity and Community. “We feel that if more people understand if we work together regardless of race and ethnicity, then things will get better. I hope they realize we’re all one, and we should work together for the good.” 

Commemorations honoring King will continue next week. On Tuesday, Jan. 18 at 1:40 p.m., Students for the Propagation for Black Culture are hosting a silent march beginning at the Alumni Pavilion and ending at the steps of Old Main.