ESU grows community through Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Dinner

By Marcia Lawrence Special to The Gazette Jan 28, 2023

Marcia Lawrence/Special to The Gazette

“What better way than breaking bread together to grow community?” was the rhetorical question posed by ESU Director of Diversity Programs Mike Torres at Wednesday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Dinner.

A diverse group gathered in the Skyline Room at the Emporia State University Memorial Union for a buffet style meal, conversation, and presentations by both community and campus groups. The focus was on the life, legacy, and lessons of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and what that means to people today, in this community.

“Civic leadership is near and dear to my heart,” Torres said. “I feel it is an important part of the university vision of changing lives for the common good. We really work toward making change on campus — on leading with that same heart toward building a beloved community.”


Representatives from local Black student and community organizations spoke to the impact Dr. King has had on their lives and their visions of the future. Featured speakers were Katelin Hollinshed and Kellee Banks with the ESU Black Student Union; Aaliyah Fernander and Cellina Guidry with Sister Circle, an ESU women student organization; Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity brothers Xavier Cason and Billy Ross; Willie Finch with Eastside Community Group; and Curt Cooper with ESU Campus Ministries.

“It’s good to do something like this,” remarked Willie Finch. “We’re going to continue improving the Eastside [Park] and we will start back again with our scholarships.”

Finch extended an invitation to the entire community to attend the long-running Eastside Memorial Day weekend picnic this coming May. “It’s free. Just bring a small dish to share and a chair. Help us as we try for building another shelter in the park.”