Dr. Berry addresses community during MLK celebration. Bloomquist, Melton take part.

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Dr. Mary Frances Berry (Andrew Milone/GNN)

— Contributor, Holly O’Malley, co-authored this report

Dr. Mary Frances Berry, an activist for civil rights, gender equality and social justice for the last four decades, was asked to speak as the keynote speaker during the 38th Annual Martin Luther King Celebration this past Monday evening — and she delivered words describing the present state of civil rights in the United States. Here were a couple of the views presented by Berry:

  • We need to fight for freedom until the killing of black men and black mothers’ sons is given as much outrage as the killing of white men and white mothers’ sons
  • When whites abuse drugs like opioids, it is seen as a public health issue, but when blacks abuse them, it is seen as a crime.
  • Posting to Facebook and Twitter is not enough. Social media is an organizer, but it cannot replace protest and putting your body on the line. If the protest doesn’t make it in the news, then no one is going to know about it. People have to show up. You have to be there.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. had some early failures like anyone, but he learned to use his talents and be courageous.

Since the time of King Jr.’s assassination, the country has been working hard and making progress through movements like Black Lives Matter, according to Dr. Berry. She expressed that the US has come a long way over the last 50 years, and how many more movements are now being formulated like within the LGBTQA community — and even expressed the hope that Oprah would run for president.

Jennifer Bloomquist, Associate Provost for Faculty Development and Dean of Social Sciences & Interdisciplinary Programs, opened up the evening by relating the occasion to her own family history in the post-Civil War era. Her father was black and her mother was white.

Jennifer Collins Bloomquist
Jennifer Bloomquist Photo courtesy of Gettysburg College

They lived in the late 1960s where it was uncommon for a black man and white woman to get married. She recognized the two as political activists  and “trailblazers” for the civil rights movement. They participated in in what she called the “collective victory,” which consisted of smaller victories every day — with many highlighted leaders but also ordinary people.

The first Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in Gettysburg took place back in 1979, and it was around the same time that the Adams County Career Aid Project (ACCAP) was established. This fund provides scholarships and interest free loans for students that need help in their pursuit of higher education or professional training. Over 600 adults have been helped in the last 38 years, according to Bloomquist.

Messiah College student, Monica Hsu, and Millersville University graduate and current Master’s student, Arianna Camel, were recipients of the ACCAP.

There were many musical performances throughout the night including the performance of English Professor McKinley Melton. Many of these performances were followed by standing ovations.

Mary Englerth was the recipient of the Living the Dream Award for her role in the Keystone Farmworker Program Outreach, which provides health services to migrant and seasonal farmworkers in Pennsylvania. She led the expansion of the program to 37 counties in Pennsylvania.

Dr. Berry is also currently Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and History at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2013, she was a recipient of the Nelson Mandela award from the South African Government.

CLICK HERE for the full video of the ceremony.

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