By Ethan Duran
Twelve high school seniors and college sophomores from the Milwaukee area received scholarships for $1,000 each at the 43rd Annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Celebration. The Celebration was held on Jan. 13 at the Cross Lutheran Church in Triangle North. The scholarship recipients were members of congregations connected to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Coalition, a nonprofit organization that raises money to encourage students to finish high school and pursue higher education.
Education was the topic of the opening prayer, which was led by Pastor Michelle Townsend de Lopez. She said, “Not all of our voices are focused on education, especially those in office,” before dedicating the afternoon’s prayer to the topic. The Coalition held its All-A-Thon recognitions before handing out certificates to its 12 successful recipients. The ceremony also gave its Reverend Ernest Glenn Community Service Award to Lona Eubanks, the Coalition’s former financial secretary.
Eligible students are split into two categories: high school seniors seeking a college education, or full-time college students already in degree programs. Each student must raise a minimum of $200 for the organization and participate in the Coalition’s All-A-Thon, which is held every year. They must also write an essay based on one of Dr. King’s quotes. Reverend Joseph Ellwanger, one of the Coalition’s co-chairs, said that the committee selects a quote to get applicants to think about King’s quotes for the present time.
The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quote that was used for last year’s essay prompt was, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Before the certificate ceremony, student Brianna Bynum was chosen to read a quote from her essay in front of everyone. In her essay, she pledged to use technology as a call for change for discrimination in business. After Bynum’s reading, another student named Jala Brazil won the prize for top fundraiser for 2018’s All-A-Thon.
Soon after the All-A-Thon recognitions were given out, the 12 students were called to receive their certificates and pose for a picture in front of the altar. Parents and family members stood in for students who could not be there to pick up their certificate.
Jeremy Johnson, a Marquette student and winner of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. scholarship, said it felt good to win the $1,000. He’s double-majoring in political science and anthropology but was thinking about entering law school after college. He said he wanted to be an international attorney for the United Nations because of the current events happening on the United States border.
Reverend Gus Barnes was invited to be the celebration’s guest speaker that night. From behind the podium, Barnes described his experience with discrimination while in the Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. Being only one of three people of color on campus at the time, Barnes said he was often stopped by police officers and questioned. He graduated from the Seminary with a Master of Divinity Degree in May of 2018.
In front of the large Lutheran cross that hung in the center of the room, Barnes said that introducing pastors of color was important for bringing people of color to church. Ordained by Bishop Viviane Thomas-Breitfeld in September of 2018, Barnes said, “Stand for what you believe in. Let those doors open. If they close, pray for them.” Barnes is now a pastor at Luther Memorial Church in Delevan.
Reverend Marilyn Miller of the Lutheran Church of Reformation has been to every Scholarship Celebration, except for two–once when she was sick, and another time when she was travelling. This year she announced recipient awards at the Scholarship Celebration that evening. Miller explained that the Coalition accepts students from all