UNF becomes first Florida college campus with MLK statue
By Beth Cravey
The Florida Times-Union.
February 29, 2012

In the shadow of an 8-foot-tall statue of Martin Luther King Jr., a young black man named Emorja Roberson stood tall and sang strong.

“We shall overcome, we shall overcome. We shall overcome some day,” he sang, backed by the University of North Florida Chamber Singers. “Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome someday.”

As Roberson sang, an elder black man who lived a life parallel to King’s marveled how far they had indeed come. Bishop Rudolph W. McKissick Sr., 84, remembers singing that song during the civil rights struggles that led to King’s assassination in 1968. He remembers living in the world of inequality that King, who would now be 83, sought to end.

And now McKissick will remember helping unveil the statue Tuesday in a place called Peace Plaza at the University of North Florida, the first Florida campus to have a King statue.

As McKissick gave the benediction, he closed his eyes and thanked God for King and his dream.

“Thank you for the dreamers, especially the dreamer Martin Luther King, and to see the reality unfolding,” he said. “Thank you for the opportunity to take the banner now and move it forward.”

McKissick, senior pastor at Bethel Baptist Institutional Church, later told the Times-Union what the statue meant to him.

“It is a sign and a symbol that is significant for me, to have been through segregation. I never thought it was supposed to be any different,” he said. “Now to look at it is a pivotal point of transition.”

The Chamber Singers soloist, Roberson, 20, said the statue was a symbol for him as well.

“It is a prophecy,” he said, “that we shall overcome.”

And it is an inspiration, he said, “That we can do it.”

“He’s here,” Roberson said of King.

The 8-foot-6-inch bronze statue was created by artist Jasu Shilpi of India, the same artist who designed the Gandhi statue unveiled in Peace Plaza in 2006. A committee led by Oupa Seane, director of UNF’s Intercultural Center for Peace, began planning the King statue in 2008 and raised $32,000 in private funds to pay the cost.

The leading donors were Eartha M.M. White Legacy Fund, Jacksonville Aviation Authority and the DuBow Family Foundation.

The committee wanted the second statue at the plaza to be of King because he embodied the same values UNF seeks to promote, and is a role model for students, said Mauricio Gonzalez, vice president of student and international affairs.

He said he was surprised to find that no other Florida college campus had a King statue but was “very proud” that UNF was the first.

beth.cravey@jacksonville.com, (904) 359-4109

Read more at Jacksonville.com: http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2012-02-29/story/unf-becomes-first-florida-college-campus-mlk-statue#ixzz1nsMYB8o8

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