Tulane students celebrate MLK weekend through leadership conference, community outreach

Nile Pierre, News Editor

Last weekend, Tulane’s Black Student Union traveled with 11 members to the Southwestern Black Student Leadership Conference (SBSLC) hosted by Texas A&M University.  

Founded in 1989, the SBSLC is an annual event where hundreds of students and advisors gather to participate in workshops, listen to nationally renowned speakers and connect with other young professionals.

“I was excited about being in a space with other collegiate black people and for the opportunity to network with other black professionals in my field of study,” Tulane junior Joye Pate said. “That’s something I think every black student should experience, so I knew had to be there.”

Organized by the presidents of Tulane University and Xavier University, students from universities throughout the city also came together in New Orleans on Monday to honor Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy with a day of service.

“We started right after the national holiday was created because we believed this holiday was not just another day off, but a ‘day on’ to reflect, commemorate and to celebrate Dr. King’s teaching, his vision, and dream,” Carolyn Barber-Pierre, assistant vice president of student affairs and multicultural life, said.

The MLK Day of Service, like the SBSLC, is an opportunity for students to connect with each other beyond the Tulane community.

“New Orleans, although small, is filled with legacies and consists of many compartments that are not easily known by university students that are not local,” Tulane senior Jo’Kia Greely said. “By engaging in these activities, it helps you to understand what kind of community you are a part of and become aware of how you can help.”

This year’s theme at the SBSLC was “The Purpose Pursuit.” The keynote speaker was Lamman Rucker, an actor who currently stars in the television show “Greenleaf.”

“Attending the conference is a must for black students,” Tulane freshman Kelvin Jennings said. “It worked to validate us despite our country’s unfairness towards us.”

The workshops were facilitated by experts on topics including homophobia in the black community, how to build your brand using social media and men’s role in the #MeToo movement.

“The sessions I attended were all interesting and very much relevant,” Pate said. “I can only imagine how much it will improve by next year.”

The conference also hosts an oratory contest and career fair, as well as informal opportunities for students to socialize after the workshops and scheduled events. Having the opportunity to be surrounded by individuals with similar backgrounds during the conference was reassuring for some participants.

“Seeing the collective of black students at the conference reminded me of how bright and amazing we are,” Jennings said.

As a university with an emphasis on community service and making a positive difference in the city, many Tulane students embrace community outreach and look for ways to connect outside of the service requirement.

“I participated in the day of service because I wanted to spend the day off from classes doing something that would benefit the community.” Tulane freshman Sarah Silvershein said.

Some students who went to the SBSLC with the Tulane BSU felt the experience was beneficial and left with a positive feeling.

“I usually always make a place for myself everywhere I go,” Pate said. “This time, I didn’t have to make the place. That is an undeniably amazing feeling.”

Students who participated in the MLK Day of Service also felt that the event speaks to the legacy of many of our country’s heroes.

“It honors MLK’s legacy in various aspects since not only Tulane students, but students from other institutions join the event as well,” Tulane freshman Bayli Li said. “Also, the day of service helps remind people what happened in the past and how hard it was for heroes and heroines like MLK to stand up for the right thing.”

Leave a Comment