Hundreds attended the 32nd annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Jan. 23 in Gettysburg College's Christ Chapel.
Educator, author, and civil rights advocate Dr. Bettye F. Baker recounted her youth in segregated Louisville, Ky., warned of resurgences in educational segregation and suppression of minorities' voting rights, and urged audience members to continue King's work toward a just society.
The event also featured performances by lyric soprano Jessica Gondwe, daughter of late Gettysburg College economics Prof. Derrick Gondwe; Prof. Jocelyn Swigger, coordinator of keyboard studies in the College's Sunderman Conservatory of Music; the Gettysburg Children's Choir, led by Prof. Brent Talbot, the Sunderman Conservatory's coordinator of music education; and the Biglerville High School Jazz Band, led by Jamie Cope.
The annual Living the Dream Award was presented to local residents whose life and work have furthered King's dream of freedom and equality for all. Recipients were Jorge Perez Rico and, posthumously, Cassie Nutter. Rev. Dr. Karl Mattson, former chaplain of Gettysburg College and founding director of its Center for Public Service, presented Rico's award. King Celebration Committee member Deb Geesey presented Nutter's award, accepted by the honoree's sister, Mary Alice Nutter. The YWCA of Gettysburg & Adams County and the United Way of Adams County sponsor the award.
A freewill offering was collected to support the Adams County Career Aid Project, which provides need-based financial aid to Adams County students, including Salvador Andrew Tamez, who spoke. Unlike many other educational aid programs, ACCAP provides assistance to students of all ages. This year, ACCAP has awarded more than $11,300 to students attending Harrisburg Area Community College, Penn State University, West Chester University, Shippensburg University, McDaniel College, the Baltimore School of Massage, and Albright College, among many others.
Gettysburg College Chaplain Joseph Donnella gave the invocation. Rosie Bolen of the Adams Unity Coalition introduced Baker. Dr. Joseph Levenstein, lay leader of the Adams County Jewish Community, gave the benediction. King Celebration Committee Chair Mark Berg welcomed the audience.
Baker, a Gettysburg resident, has been a teacher and educational consultant for more than 25 years. She has written political and opinion pieces, book reviews and poetry, and published a children's picture book, "What is Black." Baker is married to Lieutenant Colonel (ret.) William Baker, the last official researcher of the Brownsville Incident in Texas in 1906. Baker's research resulted in the reversal of President Theodore Roosevelt's decision to discharge without honor 167 African American soldiers for shooting up the town of Brownsville.
The event was delayed a week from King's birthday so that Gettysburg College students, returning from winter break, could join community members.
Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college, which enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students, is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.
Contact: Jim Hale, associate director of editorial services