Category: Realizing the Dream

Realizing the Dream Performing Arts Series and Lecture Commemorate King and the 1300

Realizing the Dream Performing Arts Series

by Dr. Elisabetta Zengaro
Communications Specialist, Division of Community Affairs

On April 4, 2022, 54 years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, those sitting in the Bean Brown Theater at Shelton State Community College were reminded of the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers’ legacy during the Realizing the Dream (RTD) combined lecture and performing arts series, featuring cultural historian Wil Haygood and a performance of George W. Stewart’s socio-drama, King and the 1300.

Presented by Stillman College and Shelton State, two of the three RTD Coordinating Committee institutions, the events occurred back-to-back, a first in Realizing the Dream history. Haygood’s lecture began at 4 p.m., followed by a reception at 5:30 p.m. and the play at 6 p.m.

History

During the 30th anniversary of King’s assassination, a young journalist was tasked with writing an article commemorating the event. Wondering what happened to the sanitation workers at the forefront, he traveled to Memphis. At the union hall of the sanitation department, the journalist asked about the sanitation workers.

“[The man there] said, ‘There are still 12 men in this city on the sanitation trucks who marched with King. They consider it their duty to remain on those trucks,’” Haygood recalled. “And right then I said to myself, ‘I'm going to find every one of them. I'm going to find them in their trucks, and I'm going to have their voices in this story.’”

Haygood then shared the story he wrote about those 12 sanitation workers; the patriots, he said. Men who bent down, so others could stand.

“It was the men in Memphis who bent down in the gutters to pick up the garbage to earn a living in the boundaries of the law in a nation that didn't always love them,” Haygood said. “Some of those men had fought in World War II for a nation that would have lynched them. The definition of a patriot. All they asked of America is that you treat us as men.”

Haygood earned a Martin Luther King scholarship to study journalism at Miami University. He has served as a national and foreign correspondent for The Washington Post and The Boston Globe and chronicled America’s civil rights journey through biographies of Thurgood Marshall, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Sammy Davis Jr., Sugar Ray Robinson and Eugene Allen, the real-life inspiration for Lee Daniels’ award-winning film, The Butler.

“Of all the stories that I’ve written in my journalism career, [I’ve] been all over the world, watched Nelson Mandela walk out of prison,” Haygood said. “The story that I keep coming back to is this story, Memphis. The garbage men. I stand as a man because of them.”*

Following the lecture, Haygood participated in a brief Q & A with the audience.

King and the 1300

Under the direction of Stewart and featuring the American Gospel Quartet Convention, Inc., and Last Psalm Productions, King and the 1300 is a tribute to King and the 1,300 Memphis sanitation workers who invited him to Memphis in 1968.

“It’s kind of like a mandate that we leave inspired to not let the bravery and not let the sacrifice of the 1,300 sanitations workers and, of course Dr. King, die,” said Stewart, addressing the audience before the start of the performance. “Those gentleman were certainly brave, bold and willing to pay the price for a better day. Thank you again, the Realizing the Dream Committee. Dr. Samory Pruitt, we will be forever grateful to you for allowing us to tell this story throughout this country and throughout this work.”

The play tells the story through the household of a fictitious sanitation worker’s life. Although the incidences in the story are factual, they are woven with the events of the visit of a brother-in-law who comes to Memphis to get involved in the exploding music scene. The brother-in- law’s dreams of personal stardom conflict with the bigger picture behind the sanitation movement.

Most of the setting takes place in the couple’s Memphis home, interspersed with archival footage of King’s speeches to coincide with the historical events taking place. The climax occurs at the Lorraine Motel where King was assassinated. As the family resolves their internal differences, they hear King’s assassination on a nearby balcony.

 Through comforting each another, the characters come to terms with King’s assassination in the sense that they recognize their responsibility to carry on King’s dream, reminding the audience of their role in achieving equality.

The play concluded with a standing ovation and audience members singing “We Shall Overcome” with the performers.

 Reflections

Sitting in the audience, Carmella Anderson, who lived in Memphis during the 1968 strike, recalled how Haygood’s speech resonated today.

“I was a 13-year-old girl, and I remember the year and everything going on at that time, and I can remember the signs, ‘I am a man,’” Anderson said. “We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, and those men really helped a lot.”

For those in attendance, the play echoed this year’s theme, “Realizing the Dream Through Kindness and Respect for Others.”

“They had different visions, but they were able to connect as one,” said Marshae Madison-Pelt of the characters in the performance. “Tonight's play was just so awesome. This is a great way to honor the life of Dr. King and all of the things that he has done.”

*Editor’s note: While modern terminology would dictate the use of the term sanitation workers, the men Mr. Haygood interviewed referred to themselves as garbage men, so we include Mr. Haygood’s use of that terminology in this instance to maintain authenticity.

Realizing the Dream Committee Announces Combined Lecture Series and Performing Arts Event

Realizing the Dream Performing Arts Series
Man standing in front of brick wall
KingAndThe1300

by Diane Kennedy-Jackson
Publications Coordinator, Division of Community Affairs

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — For the first time in Realizing the Dream history, Shelton State Community College and Stillman College will host back-to-back presentations. On Monday, April 4, cultural historian Wil Haygood will chronicle the time leading up to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., laying the foundation for the performance of George W. Stewart’s socio-drama, King and the 1300.

Both events will take place on the Shelton State campus in the Bean Brown Theatre. Haygood’s lecture will begin at 4 p.m. and will be followed by a reception at 5:30 p.m. and the presentation of King and the 1300 at 6 p.m. These events are free and open to the public, and promise to provide an unparalleled educational opportunity, as well as an impactful and memorable evening for all who attend.

About Wil Haygood:

Wil Haygood is a best-selling author, prize-winning journalist, acclaimed biographer, Pulitzer finalist and cultural historian. His work has chronicled America’s civil rights journey through biographies of Thurgood Marshall, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Sammy Davis Jr., Sugar Ray Robinson and Eugene Allen, the real-life inspiration for Lee Daniels’ award-winning film, The Butler. He served as a national and foreign correspondent for three decades for the The Washington Post and The Boston Globe, covering events such as Nelson Mandela’s release from prison after 27 years and the ascent of President Barack Obama. He has been described as a dynamic speaker who leaves audiences inspired and moved, and with a deeper, richer understanding of our shared American history.

About King and the 1300:

King and the 1300 is an original, dramatic socio-drama by George W. Stewart. The play chronicles King’s last days, up to and including his assassination. Stewart is a native of Tuscaloosa and studied at The University of Alabama. He now lives in Birmingham, where he works with Last Psalm Ministries and the American Gospel Quartet Convention.

The Realizing the Dream initiative is a collaboration among Shelton State Community College, Stillman College, The University of Alabama and the Tuscaloosa Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The initiative seeks to educate the next generation and keep alive the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Contact: Carol Agomo, Division of Community Affairs, cnagomo@ua.edu, 205-348-7405

Realizing The Dream Essay and Art Winners Deliver Messages of Hope

by Dr. Elisabetta Zengaro
Communications Specialist, Division of Community Affairs

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. –  To quote author Neil Postman, “Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.” During the 2022 Realizing the Dream Essay and Art Contest Reception on March 24, those “living messages” were on display for the Tuscaloosa community in the form of winning students’ essays and artwork in the Cadence Bank Gallery at Shelton State Community College.

“When you think about that, and you get a chance to look at the artwork or read the essays and you see what these young people are thinking and what the world looks like to them, we ought to be encouraged about the living messages that we’re putting through that time,” said Dr. Samory Pruitt, vice president for Community Affairs at UA. “Thank you for inspiring us.”

Through their creativity, students from across the state showcased how they interpreted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy to build a better tomorrow, as Zena Terry, one of the essay category winners described in the video shown during the reception.

“To me, Realizing the Dream means to able to showcase your talent, while reflecting on what you have done in your community that has exemplified what MLK dreamed of,” Terry said in the video.

“My artwork represents a dove spreading love across the globe to create a peaceful world for everyone,” echoed Aeesha Mulani, one of the artwork winners, in the video.

This year marked the first in-person reception for the contest, which was formally added to the Realizing the Dream celebration after its creation in 2021. Statewide middle and high school students were provided rubrics and asked to submit a 500-word essay or artwork reflecting the 2022 theme, “Realizing the Dream Through Kindness and Respect for Others.” Judges consisted of faculty and staff from UA, Shelton State and Stillman College.

Out of 43 artwork submissions, 10 students were chosen as the winners:

  • Ella Bryan, 6th-grader at Tuscaloosa Magnet Middle School
  • Jada Childs, 8th-grader at Tuscaloosa Magnet Middle School
  • Cody Merrymon, 7th-grader at Duncanville Middle School
  • Aeesha Mulani, 6th-grader at Tuscaloosa Magnet Middle School
  • Samantha Tolbert, 8th-grader at Thomasville Middle School
  • Paulina Liston Carrera, 12th-grader at Hillcrest High School
  • Savannah Dockery, 10th-grader at Sipsey Valley High School
  • Meredith Pearson, 11th-grader at Paul W. Bryant High School
  • Jacqueline Perez, 11th-grader at Paul W. Bryant High School
  • Serenity Thomas, 12th-grader at Thompson High School

From 141 essay submissions, 10 students were selected:

  • Henry Duke, 7th-grader at Phillips Preparatory Middle School
  • Madison Lee, 6th-grader at Tuscaloosa Magnet Middle School
  • Tim Li, 8th-grader at Phillips Preparatory Middle School
  • Sariah Hossain, 8th-grader at Phillips Preparatory Middle School
  • Madelynn Nguyen, 7th-grader at Phillips Preparatory Middle School
  • Jailyn Burnside, 10th-grader at Hillcrest High School
  • Briana Hanks, 12th-grader at Paul W. Bryant High School
  • Hannah Jackson, 11th-grader at Central High School
  • Kaci Lollar, 11th-grader at Berry High School
  • Zena Terry, 11th-grader at Ramsay High School

Each winner received a Chromebook, and their respective schools will receive up to $1,000 in the form of reimbursement for educational resources and/or programming to support this work.

Dozens gathered to view the winning submissions, pose for pictures and munch on hors d’oeuvres before the program began at 6:00 p.m. in the Alabama Power Recital Hall. Dr. Lane McLelland, director of the UA Crossroads Civic Engagement Center, delivered the opening remarks. Then, the audience heard from winners in their own words during a brief video presentation before winners were recognized. Carson Grubaugh, instructor of visual arts at Shelton State and one of the artwork judges, announced the artwork winners. Serena Blount, instructor of English at UA and one of the essay judges, announced the essay winners. Pruitt provided the closing remarks.

The next event in the Realizing the Dream celebration is a lecture featuring journalist and author Wil Haygood and George W. Stewart’s play, “King and the 1300,” on Monday, April 4, at Shelton State. The lecture will begin at 4:00 p.m., with a reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by the play at 6:00 p.m.

Realizing the Dream Committee Announces 2022 Events and Activities

RtD-2022_theme

by Diane Kennedy-Jackson
Publications Coordinator, Division of Community Affairs

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The Realizing the Dream planning committee, consisting of representatives from Shelton State Community College, Stillman College, the Tuscaloosa chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and The University of Alabama are excited to announce the 2022 Realizing the Dream events and activities. “Realizing the Dream Through Kindness and Respect for Others” is the theme for 2022 events celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

On Friday, Jan. 14, at 6:30 p.m., the 13th Legacy Awards Banquet will take place in the Sellers Auditorium of the Bryant Conference Center. At the banquet, The Hon. U.W. Clemon will receive the Mountaintop Award, Dr. Nahree Doh will receive the Call to Conscience Award and Carina Villarreal will receive the Horizon Award.

Attorney, journalist and television personality Star Jones will be the Legacy Awards Banquet speaker. Perhaps best known as one of the original co-hosts on the ABC morning talk show, “The View,” Jones is the author of “You Have to Stand for Something, or You’ll Fall for Anything,” “Shine: A Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Journey to Finding Love” and “Satan’s Sisters.”

Clemon is an Alabama attorney in private practice and a former United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. He was among the first 10 African-American lawyers admitted to the Alabama bar, was one of the first two African Americans elected to the Alabama Senate since Reconstruction and was appointed by Jimmy Carter in 1980 as the first African American federal judge in Alabama. He has devoted decades to breaking down barriers in education, government and the economy.

Doh is the associate director of clinical and outreach services at UA’s Division of Student Life Counseling Center. A licensed psychologist, she also provides individual counseling for students experiencing developmental and psychological concerns and has facilitated a workshop for international students to enhance their success and growth in the U.S. academic environment. She is known for her compassion for people and her commitment to equality, as well as her willingness to take the moral high road regardless of personal and professional consequences.

Villarreal is a 2020 UA graduate and is currently pursuing a master of social work degree at the Capstone. During her time at UA, she has served in a variety of leadership roles, including director of multicultural affairs in the Student Government Association and president of the Hispanic Latino Association. A student assistant in the office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, she is passionate about social justice, activism and promoting cultural awareness.

Gospel singer, songwriter, actress and activist Kierra Sheard will be the featured performer for the 2022 Realizing the Dream Concert on Sunday, Jan. 16. The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. at The University of Alabama’s (UA) Moody Music Concert Hall. At age nine Sheard earned a Stellar Award for Best Children’s Performance for “The Will of God.” She honed her skills as a next-generation member of the multi-Grammy Award winning Clark Sisters and launched her professional solo career in 2004, gaining notoriety out of the box with her debut album, “I Owe You,” followed by the 2006 “This is Me.” Two years later came “Bold Right Life” and then 2011’s “Free.” Her latest single, “Something Has to Break,” a duet with her mother, gospel icon Karen Clark Sheard, hit No. 1 on two gospel radio charts, topping Billboard’s Gospel Airplay chart and the MediaBase Gospel chart.

Realizing the Dream partner the Tuscaloosa SCLC will sponsor Unity Day activities on Monday, Jan. 17. The Unity Day march will begin at noon from the Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School. The annual Mass Rally will begin at 6 p.m. at First African Baptist Church. All Unity Day activities are free and open to the public.

Additional Realizing the Dream events will take place throughout the year.

In response to concerns surrounding the rising number of COVID cases as a result of the Omicron variant, seating for the Legacy Banquet and Concert will be limited to 50% of capacity for each event, allowing the celebration of the remarkable legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. while also addressing the need for social distancing. Concert tickets are $20. Legacy Banquet tickets are $30 for individuals or $125 for a table of 5. Dress is semiformal. Tickets will be available online at http://realizingthedream.ua.edu, beginning Thursday, Jan. 6, at 8 a.m.

Please note that UA COVID protocols in place at the time of the events will be followed at the Legacy Banquet and Concert. Additionally, those wishing to have their picture made with Ms. Star Jones will be subject to additional requirements of Ms. Jones: wear a mask covering the mouth and nose, as well as provide proof of complete COVID vaccination (one shot for Johnson & Johnson; two shots for Moderna and Pfizer). Proof of vaccination options include a completed vaccination card or a scan of said card.

For ticketing information, call 205-348-7111 or email community.affairs@ua.edu. For more information about Realizing the Dream activities and events, visit the website at http://realizingthedream.ua.edu, or contact Carol Agomo at 205-348-7405 or via email at community.affairs@ua.edu.

UA Announces 2021 Virtual Realizing the Dream Events

RtD2021_EssayArtworkContest

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — “The show must go on” is one of the most familiar expressions in showbiz, and despite COVID-19, that is exactly what will be happening during the 2021 Martin Luther King Jr. Realizing the Dream celebration.

While the two most familiar components — the annual concert and legacy banquet — will not occur this year, other important aspects of this annual celebration will take place.

The theme for the 2021 activities is Realizing the Dream Through Justice for All.

Among the activities planned is the premier of a documentary that will chronicle the vision and aspirations of those who founded the event in 1990, as well as its impact on individuals and the community. It will feature founders and key officials from Stillman College, Shelton State Community College, The University of Alabama and the Tuscaloosa Southern Christian Leadership Conference, who will recount their experiences.

Through the use of current and archival interviews, the documentary will feature those who have been recognized over the years, such as Reverend Thomas Linton, former Tuscaloosa police chief Ken Swindle, attorney Cleo Thomas Jr., and our youngest award recipients, including former students Kendra Key, Fan Yang, Melanie Gotz, Quin Kelly and Emma Mansberg.

The Center for Public Television is partnering with the Realizing the Dream Committee to produce the documentary.

In addition, a new Realizing the Dream website will be launched featuring photographic images captured over the years, not only from The University of Alabama archives but also from individuals who have participated in the annual events. To upload photos, visit http://communityaffairs.ua.edu/realizing-the-dream-photo-submission/.

Realizing the Dream activities will continue throughout the year on a quarterly basis and may include guest lecturers and performing artists. Events will be hosted in a virtual setting early in the year, with hopes for in-person activities later. Event details will be announced as they become available.

Among those events is an essay and art contest focused on the 2021 theme, Realizing the Dream Through Justice for All. The contest, which will involve middle and high school students from Tuscaloosa and the surrounding area, is sponsored by the Realizing the Dream Committee, which seeks to educate and keep the Dream relevant to the next generation. Selected students will be asked to share insights about their work in an online setting on Thursday, April 8, at 6 p.m. Those students featured will receive special recognition, as well as earn funding to support this important work at their respective schools.

This year’s event date was selected for its close proximity to the time Dr. King, a brilliant writer and orator, wrote his April 16, 1963 Letter from the Birmingham Jail. His message that day, “… Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere …,” was both timely and timeless.

Information about contest criteria and submission is available at http://realizingthedream.ua.edu. The submission deadline is Monday, March 15.

The Realizing the Dream Committee is comprised of representatives from The University of Alabama, Stillman College, Shelton State Community College and the Tuscaloosa Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

The Tuscaloosa SCLC has recently announced its Unity Day events, scheduled to take place on a virtual platform on Monday, Jan. 18. The Unity Day Breakfast will begin the day’s activities at 7:45 a.m. Reverend David Gay will be the speaker. A car parade will begin at 11 a.m. Those planning to participate should place signs on their cars and line up at the Beulah Baptist Church and Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School parking lots. Concluding the day’s activities will be a rally program at 6 p.m., featuring Reverend Clarence Sutton Jr. as the speaker.

For more information on how to view the Unity Day virtual programs and participate in the car parade, please contact Reginald Kennedy at rlkkennedy@yahoo.com.

Dr. Samory T. Pruitt, vice president of the Division of Community Affairs at UA and a member of the Realizing the Dream Committee, said, “We look forward to sharing these important annual events with the public, even if we are unable to do so face-to-face at this time. Dr. King’s legacy is too important for us to let something like COVID-19 prevent us from continuing to recognize what Dr. King means to our campus, community and state. The show WILL go on.”

For additional information, contact the UA Division of Community Affairs at community.affairs@ua.edu or 205-348-8376.


The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity

Committee Announces 2020 Realizing the Dream Distinguished Lecture Series

 
By Diane Kennedy-Jackson
Publications Coordinator, Division of Community Affairs

The 2020 Realizing the Dream Distinguished Lecture Series, titled VOTE, Everyone and Everywhere, will take place Thursday, March 12, at 6 p.m. in Stillman College’s Stinson Auditorium, with voter registration and voting rights restoration education taking place prior to the event and beginning at 4:30 p.m.

All are encouraged to participate in voter registration if they are not already registered, to learn about the process for restoring their right to vote if applicable, and staying for the panel and discussion that follow.

The panel will feature representatives of The Andrew Goodman Foundation, as well as Dana Sweeney, Statewide Organizer at the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice and a 2018–2019 Puffin Democracy Fellow with The Andrew Goodman Foundation.

At the height of the civil rights movement, Andrew Goodman joined Freedom Summer 1964 to register African Americans to vote. On his first day in Mississippi, he and two other civil rights workers, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner, were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan. The Andrew Goodman Foundation was created in 1966 by Robert and Carolyn Goodman to carry on the spirit and purpose of their son Andrew’s life. Today, the foundation’s work harnesses the legacy of courageous civic action to grow new leaders of change.

Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice is a non-profit, non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to work to achieve justice and equity for all Alabamians. Alabama Appleseed is a member of the national Appleseed Network, which includes 18 Appleseed Centers across the U.S. and in Mexico City. Alabama Appleseed is also a member of the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law’s Legal Impact Network, a collaborative of 36 advocacy organizations from across the country working with communities to end poverty and achieve racial justice at the federal, state and local levels.

All are encouraged and invited to this free event, which promises to be an enlightening and inspiring discussion about the importance of exercising the right to vote. Come as you are and bring a friend.

The event will be hosted by Stillman College, a member of the Realizing the Dream Committee, which is comprised of Stillman, Shelton State Community College, the Tuscaloosa Southern Christian Leadership Conference and The University of Alabama.


The Martin Luther King, Jr. Realizing the Dream Committee exists to raise consciousness about injustice and  promote human equality, peace and social justice. It creates educational and cultural opportunities  for growth, empowerment and social change so that every person may experience the bounty of life’s abundant possibilities. The Distinguished Lecture Series is an integral part of the Realizing the Dream activities in west Alabama.

Jonathan McReynolds Captures Audience at 31st Annual Realizing the Dream Concert

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By Ashley Cunigan
CCBP Student Assistant

Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter Jonathan McReynolds commanded the stage at the 31st annual Realizing the Dream Concert on Sunday, January 19, as students and community members gathered to cheer the enthusiastic performance at Moody Music Concert Hall in celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Student representatives Harrison Adams, University of Alabama Student Government Association (SGA) President; Obi Bruno S. Ndubueze, Shelton State Community College Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society president; and Kylon Freeman, Stillman College SGA president, welcomed the audience and recognized Legacy Award winners Emma Mansberg, Chris England and Mary Allen Jolley, who received awards on Friday, for their services and achievements performed in the spirit of Dr. King.

Sunday night’s concert brought the weekend to its peak. Audience members were excited and eager for McReynolds’ performance. The Chicago native began his career in a college dorm room and has grown to become a distinguished artist around the world, receiving a Dove Award, a Grammy nomination and multiple Stellar Award nominations.

McReynolds captured  the audience at the outset by singing his hits “Great is the Lord” and “Gotta Have You.” Audience members were impressed by the artist’s powerful vocals, clapping and cheering throughout the concert. “Not Lucky, I’m Loved” was a crowd favorite.

McReynolds, drawing on personal experience, shared that he doesn’t take all the credit. He said his songs are inspired by an authentic relationship with God. The audience was moved by his story and applauded the artist for speaking about his experience.

The energetic performer kept the guests on their feet the whole night. As he sang about faith and freedom, many lifted their hands with praise. McReynolds reminded the crowd that faith in God should frame every part of life, and testified that this is what he is truly about.

The Realizing the Dream Concert and Legacy Awards Banquet, whose purpose is to shine a spotlight on peace and unity that inspires us all to make a better tomorrow, is sponsored by The University of Alabama, Stillman College, Shelton State Community College and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Legacy Awards Speaker, Recipients Deliver Message of Hope

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By Sophia Xiong
CCBP Graduate Assistant

Laura Ling, the award-winning journalist and author, delivered her encouraging life-experience story as keynote speaker at the 2020 Realizing the Dream Legacy Awards Banquet on January 17 in the Bryant Conference Center Sellers Auditorium before an audience of more than 400 guests.

Ling is the recipient of such prestigious awards as an Emmy, a national Edward R. Murrow Award and a Ralph McGill Award for her correspondent work.

Ling, who is the younger sister of Lisa Ling of CNN’s “This is the Life with Lisa Ling,” shared the story of being held captive in North Korea in 2009 while reporting on the trafficking of North Korean women in China. Ling and a colleague were detained by North Korean soldiers along the China-North Korea border were held captive for 140 days before being granted a special pardon and returning to the United States, thanks to the intervention of former President Bill Clinton.

In telling the story of her captivity, Ling focused on some small but shining moments.

In her own words: “One day, one of my guards had gone home to visit her family. When she returned, I asked her if she had a nice time seeing them. She said she did. But she looked kind of forlorn, and she said, I feel bad that I can see my family when you’ve been separated from yours for so long.

“Another day, I was sitting next to a guard who was crying. I had no idea why she was crying, but at that moment, I felt compelled to reach out and hug her. I knew that I could be taking a risk by reaching to a young woman whose job was to keep me prisoner. But at that moment, I just didn’t care. I reached my arms around her and embraced her. She immediately stood up, but she didn’t push me away. After a few seconds, I let it go. Then she offered me this very slight smile as if she appreciated that gesture. I also hugged her for selfish reasons. After feeling so alone, just that small physical interaction with another human being made me feel more alive.

“After learning about my sentence of 12 years in a labor camp, I was held in a room, crying uncontrollably. Another guard came to me, and she said something that I would never forget. ‘Laura,’ she said, ‘always have hope.’ These are women who were cold and mean to me when I first met them. They looked at me as their enemy, and I looked at them as perfect models of the North Korean propaganda machine. But I mention these moments because I do think that they are testaments to what can happen when people from enemy nations, on opposite ends of a spectrum — brown, white, blue state, red state…. What happens when we take that chance to engage with those we consider as different? We might find out how much we actually have in common. We may understand that shared humanity that truly connects us all.”

Ling also introduced her current work as a host on the E! Network. “Our report, which took us all across the country, where we met young people, was meant to let them know that there is hope,” she said. “Some of us here in this room maybe are dealing with our own personal obstacles that have left us feeling confused and alone, maybe even depressed. I think that we can all agree that we are living during a time of deep polarization. As Americans, we have faced tremendous challenges. Ethnic, racial and religious tensions divide us. The immense gap between the rich and poor continues to grow here in the U.S. and around the world. But no matter how difficult things get, we just have to, as my North Korean guard once told me: Hold on to hope. It will lead us through to brighter days.”

This year’s Realizing the Dream theme, “Through the Courage to Live a Life of Purpose,” aims to remind people that King’s courage laid a foundation that both empowered and served as a catalyst for others to do their part, long after his passing, as King’s quest for social justice continues.

Before the banquet, an informal meeting was held for students from Stillman College, Shelton State Community College and The University of Alabama to meet with Ling. During this time, Ling shared about her journey of how she became a journalist, as well as her recent work, which tries to reach out to the new generation through new forms of media, using podcast and other media, for example, as well as old media to tell stories in new ways to the digital generation.

Following Ling’s address, three individuals received Legacy Awards. Emma Mansberg received the Horizon Award for her all-around community involvement. Tuscaloosa city attorney Chris England, the first African-American in Alabama history elected chair of the Alabama Democratic Party, received the Call to Conscience Award. Mary Allen Jolley received the Mountaintop Award for her lifetime of promoting education and equal opportunity.

This was the 12th year of the Legacy Banquet. Previous speakers include network correspondents Byron Pitts, Juan Williams and John Cochran, newspaper columnist Cynthia Tucker, now Senator Doug Jones, and television and movie star Danny Glover.

UA Announces 2020 Realizing the Dream Banquet and Concert Schedule

 
By Diane Kennedy-Jackson
Publications Coordinator, Division of Community Affairs

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama is pleased to announce the upcoming 2020 Realizing the Dream Legacy Banquet and Concert.

The Legacy Banquet will take place Friday, January 17, 2020, at 6:30 p.m. in the Bryant Conference Center Sellers Auditorium, with the concert scheduled for Sunday, January 19, 2020. The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. at The University of Alabama’s (UA) Moody Music Concert Hall.

The Legacy Banquet speaker will be Laura Ling, an award-winning journalist and author who has been recognized with both an Emmy and a national Edward R. Murrow award for her correspondent work for “SoCal Connected,” the hard-hitting news magazine series. She is host of the podcast “Everyday Bravery,” a series about finding the courage within ourselves to overcome our biggest challenges. Additionally, she has hosted two documentary series on the E! Network: “E! Investigates” and “Society X with Laura Ling.” Prior to joining E!, Ling served as vice president of Current TV’s journalism department and created “Vanguard,” the network’s weekly investigative documentary series. In March 2009, while reporting on the trafficking of North Korean women, Ling and her colleague were detained by North Korean soldiers along the China-North Korea border. The two journalists were arrested and held captive in North Korea for 140 days before being granted a special pardon and returning to the U.S. She documented her experience in the 2010 memoir, “Somewhere Inside: One Sister’s Captivity in North Korea and the Other’s Fight to Bring Her Home,” penned with her sister, Lisa. Ling is a service ambassador for Points of Light, the nonpartisan organization dedicated to solving social problems through voluntary service.

The featured guest for the concert will be gospel artist Jonathan McReynolds. His music began in a college dorm room in the presence of a few friends and has grown to Christian music’s biggest stage. “Life Music: Stage Two,” his second album, received a Dove Award, a Grammy nomination and multiple Stellar Award nominations. His latest full-length album, “Make Room,” debuted at No. 1 on Billboard Gospel. It has been hailed as his best work, earning eight Stellar Awards and two Grammy nominations. The Chicago native says that “Life Music,” which is concerned with showing others and reminding himself how the faith doesn’t just fit every part of life, but should frame every part of life, is everything he’s truly about. In addition to his musical contributions, McReynolds serves as an adjunct instructor at Columbia College, one of his alma maters, and is the founder of Elihu Nation, a nonprofit organization that promotes wisdom and has awarded $30,000 in scholarships. He earned a master of arts degree in Biblical studies from Moody Theological Seminary in 2015 and was recently named a new member of Mensa, an international high IQ society. Gospel artist Kirk Franklin, who was the featured concert artist at this event in 2017, has called McReynolds “the future of gospel music, “the freshest songwriter I’ve heard in years.”

The theme for 2020 events celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is Realizing the Dream Through the Courage to Live a Life of Purpose. The events are hosted by UA, Stillman College, Shelton State Community College and the Tuscaloosa branch of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

At the Legacy Banquet, Mary Allen Jolley will receive the Mountaintop Award, Rep. Chris England will receive the Call to Conscience Award and Emma Mansberg will receive the Horizon Award.

This year’s Legacy Banquet will also feature a tribute to Paula Sue Burnum-Hayes, Theresa Burroughs, Nimrod Quintus Reynolds and Ella Odessa Warrick, all previous Legacy Award winners who are deceased. While each of them led very different lives, their legacies are inextricably intertwined with one another Through the Courage to Live a Life of Purpose in advancing the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Concert tickets are $20. Legacy Banquet tickets are $30 for individuals or $250 for a table of 10. Dress is semiformal. Tickets for both events will be available online at ua.universitytickets.com beginning Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020 at 8 a.m. To purchase tickets in person, please visit the Moody Music Box Office Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020 through Friday, Jan. 10, 2020, from 8 a.m. to noon. For more information, call 205-348-7111 or email community.affairs@ua.edu.

Realizing the Dream partner, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, will sponsor Unity Day activities beginning on Monday, Jan. 20, 2020.

For more information about Realizing the Dream activities and events, visit the website at http://realizingthedream.ua.edu, or contact Carol Agomo at 205-348-7405 or via email at community.affairs@ua.edu.


The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.

Sharing Our Legacy Dance Theatre Performs for Realizing the Dream 2019


[envira-gallery id="4921"]
Photos by Charlee Lyu
By Ashley Cunigan
CCBP Student Program Assistant

Sharing Our Legacy Dance Theatre (SOL) is a performing group of undergraduate and graduate students that uses interdisciplinary art to bring powerful stories from the past to audiences of all ages. These students from the University of Delaware traveled to Tuscaloosa to perform and hold student workshops at Hillcrest High School Sept. 13 and 14. This event was part of the Realizing the Dream series, which also includes a concert, a legacy banquet and a lecture series.

Hillcrest High School students involved in band, choir, theatre or art were welcomed to the event. Tina Turley, executive producer of Theatre Tuscaloosa, greeted the audience, and in opening remarks asserted that the “arts are transformative and bring quality of life to our community.” The SOL Dance Theatre was able to educate students on racial history through a story told about Mary Ann Shadd Cary, the first African-American woman newspaper editor in North America.

“We want to focus on the stories of people who we haven’t heard of and showcase them through performance,” said Rachel Mariah DeLauder, SOL dancer. The story of Mary Ann Shadd Cary, who was born in 1823 in Wilmington, Delaware, was told through choreography that depicted her transformation in becoming a strong woman advocating for equal rights.

Dominic Yeager, director of Arts Management and associate professor in The University of Alabama Department of Theatre and Dance, expressed his gratitude to the performers. “The arts promote joy, peace, and unity,” said Yeager. “This is what we teach and mentor in our program.” Yeager also encouraged high school seniors to apply to UA and audition for the program.

Students at Hillcrest High School expressed their thoughts about the performance with the dancers in an interactive workshop. Dr. Lynnette Young Overby, artistic director for SOL, discussed how members conducted research about Cary’s life and how she has made an impact on African-American history. The SOL continues to collaborate with guest choreographers, composers and educational organizations to further enhance their productions.

The Realizing the Dream Committee is comprised of Stillman College, Shelton State Community College, the Tuscaloosa Southern Christian Leadership Conference and The University of Alabama.