GW recognized three of its students Thursday night for their significant contributions to the University’s multicultural community at an annual ceremony honoring the life of Martin Luther King Jr.
This year’s recipients of the Martin Luther King Jr. Award, seniors Shajine A. Gregory, Paul Kendrick and Rudy Perecin Mareno, were chosen by a nine-person selection committee.
The Multicultural Student Services Center, which sponsored the event, said each choice demonstrated their commitment to the human values embodied in Dr. King’s work: “leadership, commitment, multiculturalism, peace, nonviolence, personal integrity, community, ethics, and spiritual reflection.”
“King has been gone for 38 years, but my focus is not on the passage of time … but what Dr. King would say about the world today,” University President Steven Joel Trachtenberg said Thursday night. “He would find inspiration in tonight’s award winners.”
As Trachtenberg placed the medals around each student’s neck, the crowd gave a standing ovation to honor all of the students’ work and dedication.
Gregory founded the Young Women of Color and is deeply involved in educating youth about health, HIV and AIDS through many local clubs. When receiving her award, she said she was thankful for her experiences at GW. She also thanked her “family,” whom she described as her friends, fellow members of Alpha Kappa Alpha and her parents, sisters, brothers and grandmother.
“Once you learn the importance of doing things for love – for if you have learned this, you have received a true education,” she said.
Kendrick is president of the GW chapter of the NAACP and co-author of “Sarah’s Long Walk: The Free Blacks of Boston and How Their Struggle for Equality Changed America.”
In his speech, Kendrick spoke of the intimidation that accompanied being a white man running for NAACP chapter president. He said he ran because he wanted to “change people’s perceptions of who could labor for civil rights.”
“It is not a black or white struggle, it is a human struggle,” said Kendrick, who won the post.
Mareno came to GW from Brazil, where his family still resides. During his freshman year, he founded “Books for Africa,” a student organization that has collected more than 30,000 books for African libraries and schools.
Rudy said he hopes that “the books we sent will educate and inspire generations of doctors, engineers, and leaders that will become the solution to Africa’s problems.”
The evening events continued with various tributes to King, presented by the NAACP, Black Student Union, Word Up Bible Study, Alpha Phi Alpha and Student Association President Omar Woodard.
The tributes were broken up with performances from the Eastern High School Choir of Washington under the direction of Tijuan Bradford. The choir ended the evening with a performance of the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
“I felt like it was incredible” said Michael Tapscott, the event’s planner and director at the Multicultural Student Services Center. “It generated energy to celebrate, remember and act … that is what Dr. King would want us to do.” n