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BC Awards Commemorative King Scholarships

Clayborne Carson Speaks At Annual MLK Scholarship Ceremony; Students Honored

For The Heights

Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013

Updated: Thursday, February 7, 2013 13:02

BC Awards Commemorative King Scholarships

Emily Fahey // Heights Staff

The audience in Robsham Theater was tense Monday night as five finalists for the 31st annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Scholarship awaited the award presentation. The scholarship, which is funded and presented by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Committee, awards $20,000 to the Boston College junior who has demonstrated superior academic achievement, extracurricular leadership, community service, and involvement with the African American community and African American issues both on and off campus. The selection process is rigorous—of this year’s 22 applicants, only seven advanced to the interview stage, and only five were chosen as finalists: Steven Jefferson, A&S ’14; Patrick Williamson, A&S ’14; Kayla Mendonca, A&S ’14; Natali Soto, CSOM ’14; and Philip McHarris, A&S ’14. Before the winner was announced, however, a number of speakers and performers took the stage.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Committee is a faculty organization at BC that has been awarding scholarships to students since 1982. Monday night’s ceremony started off with a short video detailing the committee members’ personal appreciation for King and how his achievements inspired the scholarship. The video was followed by a performance by Voices of Imani, BC’s gospel choir. They sang “I Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around,” a triumphant song written about King. Last year’s recipient of the scholarship, Sandra Dickson, CSON ’13, then took the stage. Dickson has worked up an impressive resume since receiving the scholarship—she co-presented at the National Black Nurses Convention, worked at a health clinic in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and acts as co-chair for BC’s Black History Month committee. She encouraged this year’s finalists to bring issues of social injustice to light, inspire others, and act as a role model for their peers. Dickson then ceded the stage to the evening’s keynote speaker, Clayborne Carson.

Carson’s illustrious career in academia has asserted him as one of the nation’s foremost scholars on King. In 1985, the late Coretta Scott King commissioned him to edit and publish King’s notes and papers. This spawned the “King Papers Project,” which has since produced six volumes of King’s speeches, sermons, correspondences, publications, and unpublished writings.  Carson gave an impassioned speech on the meaning and significance of Martin Luther King Day and how King continues to inspire America toward liberty and equality. He told of his experience at the March on Washington as an eager and naive 19-year-old, and how, to him, the impact and historical significance of the march were “inconceivable” at the time. Similarly, Carson hopes that the college-age students in the audience can dream futures that, at present, seem inconceivable. He urged everyone to remember that King’s dream isn’t in the past, rather, it is something America is still working for. “Every generation has a new dream,” he said, “but it’s hard to articulate. It can’t be achieved individually because it is defined by the people around you, the people struggling with you.”  
After Carson’s speech, the scholarship subcommittee co-chairs, Adrienne Nussbaum and J. Joseph Burns, introduced the five finalists. The finalists’ impressive credentials were supplemented by taped readings of their own application essays, which detailed the meaning of King’s legacy in their own lives. University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., then took the stage to announce the winner. The scholarship was awarded to McHarris, who is a double major in sociology and English with a minor in African and African Diaspora Studies. McHarris is currently studying abroad in South Africa, but was present for the ceremony via Skype. A classmate, Camalae Thomas, CSOM ’14, accepted the scholarship on his behalf with a quick speech written by McHarris in advance. In his speech, McHarris thanked the committee, his friends, family, and mentors and went on to praise King for inspiring him with the spirit of justice. He ended with a quote from King: “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
 McHarris was not the only one to win a prize Monday night. The other four finalists were awarded with $3,000 scholarships and a $1,000 gift card for the BC Bookstore.

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