Just one little candle: A campus commemorates Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Bethany Cherry guides people along the candlelight walk on campus in honor of Civil Rights Week. Photo by Daniella Subieta

“It is better to light just one little candle than stumble in the dark. Far better to light just one little candle — all you need is a tiny spark.”

The Perry Como lyrics that keynote speaker Cathy Stokes recited at the base of Carrillon Bell Tower epitomized the mood of the Martin Luther King, Jr. candlelight walk that began there Monday night.

Bethany Cherry, a student assistant in the BYU Multicultural Student Services Office (MSS), said the candlelight walk is about perpetuating the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. It is about coming together as a community.

“As we light our candles here today,” she said, “we’re spreading that dream … As we move forward and as we walk … no matter our race, no matter our color, no matter our religion, we’re here together to spread that light.”

The event began with the lighting of candles provided by the MSS, followed by the singing of the hymn “How Great Thou Art.”

Jennifer Langi, the cultural programs coordinator of the MSS, said that the tradition of singing a hymn brings people closer together by inviting a special spirit that lasts throughout the night.

When we were up at the walk, we started with a hymn, and just immediately the Spirit (was) there. All of a sudden, it’s drawn and suddenly you’re having a spiritual experience with people that you’ve either never met or will never even cross paths with again, but you’re connected,” she said.

After hearing King’s “I Have a Dream” speech ringing from loudspeakers lining the walk to the Wilkinson Student Center, the reverent crowd filed into the ballroom to watch the commemoration presentation. The Black Student Union’s acapella group sang the Black National Anthem, and the winner of the 2nd Annual MLK Essay Competition, Ashlee Sloan, read her essay to the crowd.

Stokes, a public affairs official in the LDS Church who was featured in a Church documentary about service, then addressed the group. She applied King’s message that we “conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline” to Latter-day Saints. 

“If we ponder and pray … and seek the Spirit with an open heart and an open mind,” Stokes said, “I believe we will have answers as to how to proceed and move towards a position to love others as ourselves.”

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