Alumni, professors, students celebrate MLK through art

The Office of Alumni Relations hosted the second annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. through music and poetry.

Temple Ten, an a cappella group, performs African spiritual song “Walk Together Children” at “An Artistic Tribute to the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” at Mitten Hall on Monday. COURTESY | RYAN BRANDENBERG

After they finished making a T-shirt in memory of those who died from gun violence in 2016, Phil and Trudy Sheau drove to Main Campus from West Philadelphia to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Phil, a 1980 master’s of public administration alumnus, and his wife try to spend the holiday at Temple each year.

This year, they attended “An Artistic Tribute to the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” at Mitten Hall, which included performances by faculty members and student organizations.

“There’s always a volunteer component to MLK Day, but we feel amiss if we don’t come for this event,” Trudy said.  

For the second year in the row, the Office of Alumni Relations hosted an artistic tribute for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, instead of a day of service.

“Every other department already chose community service, but we think an artistic and spoken platform conveys just fine Dr. King’s message on civic duties,” said Christine Brady, the director of school and college programs in the Office of Alumni Relations.

Over winter break, Brady and her colleagues finalized the speaker lineup, which included African American studies professors Timothy Welbeck and David Brown. Babel Poetry Collective and Temple Ten, an on-campus a cappella group, performed at the event.  

After opening the event with the National Anthem, Temple Ten performed “MLK” by British rock band U2 and “Walk Together Children,” an African song, under the direction of vocal professor Mitos Andaya Hart. The group, which normally meets once per week while classes are in session, spent winter break rehearsing for the event.

After the performance, Welbeck, who also produces hip-hop music, performed his latest track, “A Sweeter Tune of Freedom.” Welbeck teaches Hip-Hop and Black Culture and Mass Media and the Black Community, and said social justice is the inspiration behind much of his music.

“Music is a huge part of communications in our African-American community,” Welbeck said. “Music tells stories and music demands changes.”

In addition to helping host Temple’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day event, Brown is the founder and organizer of the annual Bridge Walk for Peace over the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.

“It’s a commemoration to the assassination of Dr. King, but also the reminder of the many bridges Dr. King had to cross to achieve peace,” he said.

To wrap up the event, Babel Poetry Collective performed slam poetry. Jamal Parker, a junior African American studies major, performed a poem about the controversy surrounding San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick after he kneeled during the National Anthem in what he called an expression of civil rights. Junior David Pratt performed a poem titled “The Pushover.”

The audience joined Pratt in performing a few lines: “If you needed my arms, if you needed my clothes, if you needed my house and all my things, I’ll give it to you.”

“If someone takes your breath away, let them take it away,” Brown said after the performance.

Afterward, Phil and Trudy thanked Brown for the opportunity to celebrate the holiday and reconnect with Phil’s alma mater.

“It’s not only entertaining, it also conveys a serious message,” Trudy said. “I can’t stop thinking about the possibilities for this generation and generations to come to make things better.”

Anh Nguyen can be reached at

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