UAMS Highlights Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dedication to Service

By Kalee Sexton

The event was planned by the Diversity and Engagement subcommittee.

Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA, chancellor of UAMS, gave opening remarks, speaking about the letter King wrote from the Birmingham City Jail in Alabama in 1963, after he was arrested over his campaign to pressure businesses to open employment opportunities to people of all races and end segregated facilities. In the letter, King wrote about his commitment to create tension to drive positive change.

UAMS celebrated the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. while kicking off the annual UAMS Serves campaign.

UAMS celebrated the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. while kicking off the annual UAMS Serves campaign.

“It was an uncompromising commitment to justice, and truth and the belief that equal treatment is a fundamental right,” Patterson said.

“As we remember Dr. King and commemorate his life and his legacy, let’s learn from him. Let’s approach all human beings with honesty, integrity, dignity and respect. Let’s embrace the richness of cultural diversity. Let’s honor Dr. King by living out his belief that we must be the change we want to see in the world.”

Stephanie Gardner, Pharm.D., Ed.D., provost and chief academic officer of UAMS, introduced the 2022 UAMS Serves campaign by quoting King: “Anybody can be great because anybody can serve.”

The UAMS Serves campaign encourages students and employees to seek out volunteer opportunities throughout the institution. Gardner highlighted volunteer efforts over the past year, including the more than 60 UAMS team members who provided medical services at the 2021 Little Rock Marathon; the 466 students who volunteered more than 9,000 hours to treat patients at the 12th Street Health and Wellness Center; and the Stocked & Reddie food pantry, which has provided more than 16,000 no-contact delivery meals to students and employees in quarantine.

“I challenge members of Team UAMS to begin or to continue to heed the call for service every day in support of our campus, our communities, our state, and in support of one another,” she said.

Arkansas Sen. Linda Chesterfield, who has served as a state senator since 2011 and was the first Black student to graduate from Hendrix College in Conway, gave the keynote address. She spoke about King’s visit to Little Rock in 1963, when he delivered the anniversary sermon for the First Missionary Baptist Church. She emphasized the importance of that visit, highlighting how Arkansas was involved in the civil rights movement.

“The legacy of Dr. King prevails simply because we have a desire to be better today than we were yesterday and even better tomorrow than we are today,” she said.

Sen. Chesterfield is presented with an appreciation plaque from the Diversity and Engagement subcommittee.

Sen. Chesterfield is presented with an appreciation plaque from the Diversity and Engagement subcommittee.

Noting that the United States is still facing many of the same problems that existed when King was alive, she said we still have work to do.

“We are still seeing police brutality because people simply want the right to vote and the right to have a fair hearing in courts of law. We’re still having difficulty dealing with our education system. And as much as we have invested in the state of Arkansas, only 41% of our children are literate. That is unacceptable,” she said.

She encouraged continued advocacy, saying, “You’ve got to shake it up a little bit sometimes.”

“We must continue this struggle to make sure that Dr. King’s legacy – his real legacy –stays alive. Not a sanitized version of it, but a real version of a person who was willing to give his life so that you had the right to vote, the right to equality education and the right to fair housing. That’s what his life was all about. This struggle goes on.”

Brian Gittens, Ed.D., MPA, vice chancellor for the Division for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, echoed Gardner’s challenge encouraging UAMS students and employees to look for opportunities to serve to honor King’s legacy. He said that although the work of diversity, equity and inclusion can be hard, it can also be rewarding as the campus becomes more diverse, more equitable and more inclusive.

“Our work is far from over. However, if we remain unified in efforts to fulfill Dr. King’s vision, I believe our campus will be a great example of how great things can happen when diverse people with diverse ideas are encouraged to bring their whole selves to a community that welcomes differences and celebrates inclusiveness.”

The event closed with a special performance by Kyndal Collins, a University of Arkansas at Little Rock student and member of the Women’s Concert Choir, who sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

A recording of the event is available here.