MLK Jr. leadership workshop, feast brings community together


Ella McIntosh, Reporter

On the first day of Black History Month, Community-Engaged Leadership hosted a dinner and seminar inside the Table Rock Room in the Plemmons Student Union. This annual workshop welcomed students, faculty and other App State affiliates to come together in honoring the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. through guided philosophical discussions about leadership and its importance. 

The event was catered with MLK Jr.’s favorite soul food dishes, which included fried chicken, collared greens, sweet potatoes and iced tea, as well as both apple and pecan pie for dessert. 

The workshop was put on by App State’s Community-Engaged Leadership. According to their website, CEL’s goal is to engage Appalachian State University students in “academic, experiential, and community-oriented programs that enhance their capacity to serve and lead in socially-responsible ways for the benefit of their local and global communities.” This includes collaboration with several locally-based nonprofits. A few of their longtime partners include FARM Cafe, Hunger & Health Coalition and Volunteers in the Park. CEL’s offices are located in Room 138 on the first floor of the PSU. 

Inside the workshop, there were dining tables set up and a potluck-style buffet of food to choose from. Up to eight people sat at each table, where attendees were encouraged to talk with one another as they ate. 

At each table, a student CEL group leader led the conversation with thought-provoking prompts that invited undergrads, graduate students and professors alike to share their diverse perspectives on leadership and what MLK Jr.’s legacy meant to them.

“A favorite MLK Jr. quote of mine is, ‘If you can’t run, walk.’ It really makes you realize how much can be accomplished from small steps forward,” said Lucy Huddleston, a junior communication major and CEL leadership studies minor.

The two speakers at this event included Lamont Sellers, App State’s director of intercultural student affairs, and Ashley Vinson, the assistant director of CEL.

Sellers began with a gracious acknowledgement of the land that the App State campus was built upon. 

“We understand the historical connection our university has with these Indigenous communities and commit to creating spaces for collaboration and strengthening support structures to build a more equitable future together,” Sellers said.

“We first held this workshop in 2022 in the Blue Ridge Ballroom. We had an excellent turnout, so we decided to make it an annual event,” Vinson said.

During her presentation about MLK Jr.’s Six Principles of Nonviolence, Vinson emphasized that MLK Jr. was “staunchly anti-racist and anti-capitalist.” MLK Jr.’s famed philosophical ideas of “the world house” and “beloved community” were also popular points of discussion. 

Toward the end of the event, participants were given markers and encouraged to draw and write down what they believed a “beloved community” looked like. Colorful images of loving embraces and depictions of world peace covered the pages.