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King program focus is unity, diversity

January 16, 2007|by ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN - A new generation is being introduced to Martin Luther King Jr.'s message.

The famous words from his "I Have a Dream" speech and chants of "lead, not follow" rang throughout the Hagerstown Community College Athletic, Recreation and Community Center Monday morning during the college's fourth annual Unity in Diversity celebration.

About 500 area students participated in diversity workshops, led by local teachers and HCC staff. Marvin Worthy, CEO of Worthy Consulting, led high school and college students in one workshop.

Worthy wanted the students to engage each other in conversation, to get out of their comfort zones, he said. Talking with new people shows students the roles and responsibilities they have in creating unity by embracing diversity, he said.

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Toward the end of his workshop, he had students stand in a huddle and chant "lead, not follow" and "create, not destroy."

Marquis Waters heard the message, loud and clear.

"You can't judge a book by its cover, everybody is the same," the HCC student said after Worthy's workshop.

Organizers planned workshops because they offer a chance to teach and share the King legacy with audiences that might not be all that familiar with it, said Donna Rudy, dean of students.

"The children were not alive when Dr. King was making an impact," Rudy said.

After the workshop, the Rev. Darin Mency of Greater Campher Temple gave a dramatic rendition of King's most famous speech.

Ed Dorsey's Black Achievers group, affiliated with the YMCA, attends the Unity celebration every year.

Shakira Doleman, 16, of Hagerstown, has heard renditions of the "I Have a Dream" speech before, but she doesn't mind hearing it again.

"People should be more familiar with it," she said.

Her great-grandparents kept newspaper articles detailing the civil rights movement, and Shakira learned a lot from reading them, she said. America has made progress, "but there is still some work to do," Shakira said.

The Unity in Diversity celebration was the brainchild of Dr. Guy Altieri, HCC's president. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the only American holiday that focuses on the American dream, he said.

"It really is becoming a valuable American holiday," he said.

Instructors in other workshops drew parallels between King's message and the leadership of other nonviolent leaders.

Peter Matthews linked King's speech to the Catholic and Protestant conflict in his homeland of Ireland.

Benjamin Barbee, an HCC student, used King's message to talk about the Mexican-American labor leader Csar Chvez during the Hispanic workshop, which was new this year.

Because King's goal was to "bring cultures together," working in a way to reach out to Hispanics appealed to Diana Reyes, an HCC student who recruits Hispanic students for the college.

"I think if Dr. King were around, he would have a big smile. He would be very pleased with our progress," Altieri said.

The Herald-Mail Co. was a sponsor of Monday's event.

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