In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr, more than 100 Rice students, faculty, staff, alumni and community leaders gathered at the Rice University Chapel Jan. 15 to participate in a panel discussion, “The Fight for Social Justice in Houston.”
With the help of Multicultural Community Relations in Public Affairs, the Black Student Association (BSA) assembled four panelists, who serve as leaders in local civil rights groups to discuss the history of their organizations as well as their work and social issues affecting Houston.
The panelists were Yolanda Smith, with the NAACP Houston Branch; Judson W. Robinson III, with the Houston Area Urban League; Theola Petteway, with Third Ward Community Cloth Cooperative; and Rev. Leslie Smith of the Change Happens CDC. Anissa Angelina Hall, the BSA’s social consciousness chair, moderated the discussion.
Other components of the evening included opening remarks from Rice University President Reginald DesRoches. Rice freshman and Houston’s 2022 Youth Poet Laureate, Avalon Hogans, closed the program by reciting “Freedom Speech,” a poem she wrote especially for the event. Participants adjourned to the Grand Hall in the Rice Student Center for a reception following the discussion.
“The BSA was honored to host the MLK Vigil this year and continue the tradition of the Black students that came before us, who made it their mission to recognize Dr. King’s legacy at Rice and to directly engage the campus community on this holiday,” said BSA President Malaika Bergner.
“We hope that the Black Rice student tradition of organizing the MLK Vigil will continue for years to come so that we may honor both Dr. King and the trailblazing students who paved the way for us to thrive today.”
Following the program, the BSA executive board members, the four panelists, faculty, alumni and staff gathered at the president’s house for dinner. Panelist Theola Petteway used this opportunity to delve deeper into discussions with students about ways to engage in social change organizations.
“I am excited to see the students express a desire to connect with the Houston community,” said Petteway. “The power of the future lies in drawing our young people into the work of our communities. Dr. King would have been pleased.”
— Jan West
Multicultural Community Relations