MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University hosted its annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Unity Breakfast and it brought together nearly 300 people including faculty, students and special guests.
The event is organized by the WVU Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Mountainlair. Marjorie Fuller, the director of the WVU Center for Black Culture and Research, helped to organize it and said the event is her favorite every year because of its proven track record of inspiring students and other attendees.
“It’s so significant, we do the MLK breakfast to bring to our remembrance the work, the life, the legacy Dr. Martin Luther King and to inspire our students and everyone here to pay it forward and to emulate the values that he put forward for us,” Fuller said.
The keynote speaker of the event was WVU alumn Eugene Napoleon, who was a running back for the Mountaineers in the 80’s. Napoleon now works as the CEO of NAP Records and NAP Sports Vision Entertainment. Napoleon said it was a truly humbling honor to return to his Alma Mater, which he considers his second home, on MLK Day to speak.
He spoke to the audience about his own trials and tribulations and also used Dr. King’s messages about love, unity, and perseverance to try and inspire the audience.
Napoleon said he was happy to see that the school is becoming a melting pot of ethnicities because it is something that would have made Dr. King proud.
“When I was here in the mid-80s, it wasn’t as much as it is now, so to see it, it speaks volumes to where we are and I’m hoping to see us go even further and I think we will,” Napoleon said. “This university has progressed in such a dynamic way, especially when you have people of color that are on this campus graduating with multiple degrees, it’s awesome to see.”
One major component of WVU’s MLK Day celebration is using the day as a day of service. The more than 100 students in the audience left the event to go and take part in community service projects to better the community.
Most went out to work with local nonprofits, while others remained in the building to do their part.
Some of those who stayed in the building worked with the Appalachian Prison Book Project (APBP), which helps provides books for prisoners in West Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, Tennesse, Virginia, and Ohio. Judy Panagakos, a board member of APBP oversaw students as they worked.
“What we have them doing is reading the letter from the prisoner and then writing the prisoner a little note to include with the free book that we are about to send,” Panagakos said. “Then they’re literally wrapping it up and putting a postage stamp on it so that we can take it all to the post office tomorrow and if all goes well we’ll probably do about 300 books.”
She said APBP partners with WVU a lot and that this time was special because these students were participating when they didn’t have to.
“It’s great to see people, they could be off today, it’s awesome,” Panagakos said. “And I know there are other things going on in the building, other service projects in the building and it’s wonderful that they chose ours and we’re really really happy about that.”
Marjorie Fuller echoed Panagakos’ sentiments about the students taking part in the day of service. She said her department, the Center for Black Culture and Research, supports WVU’s Center for Service because the work they do is important not only for the community but also for the development of students.
“We bring our students in here and we expect them to get an education and we expect them to go out into the world and do great things,” Fuller said. “But what we have to remember is that an education is not just sitting in the classroom, an education is about learning about how to be a whole and decent and giving and sharing human being and that’s what they do there and our students are so receptive to it. I’m so proud to be a part of this and to see them doing the things that they are doing.”