This year’s Unity Luncheon at MTSU will celebrate four community heroes while also emphasizing the university’s increased emphasis on not only encouraging more students to pursue higher education, but in also providing them the support needed to secure a college degree.
The annual celebration, part of the university’s Black History Month activities, will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 12, in the Tennessee Room of the James Union Building.
The honorees at this year’s luncheon are the Revs. Freddie B. Carpenter of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, Franklin Hollie of New Hope Church of God in Christ, Tolbert Randolph of Providence Missionary Baptist Church and Richard Sibert of Walnut Grove Missionary Baptist Church. All have served the community with “longevity, sincerity and productivity,” said Vincent Windrow, director of the MTSU Intercultural and Diversity Center and chair of the Black History Month Committee.
“The four honorees represent over 100 years of service to this community. Moreover, they represent strategic partnerships for the university and its retention efforts,” Windrow said. “Many of our students attend their churches. So, while we are celebrating them, we are also acknowledging the profound impact that they can have on encouraging our students to persist through the challenges of gaining a degree.
“There’s a huge retention push, and necessarily so, in TBR (Tennessee Board of Regents) schools. There is a great need.”
While applauding the critical roles that historical figures such as Sojourner Truth, Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois played in the evolution of African-American culture, Windrow says it’s important to connect the lessons of their success in overcoming obstacles to what it takes to be successful in today’s global community.
“If they can accomplish what they did then, what is preventing us from accomplishing what we need and must accomplish now?” he said.
Windrow emphasized that it’s equally as important to connect those larger-than-life personalities to the everyday, present-day soldiers who continue to quietly, but effectively, work within their communities to change lives for the better.
“The Unity Luncheon, as is the rest of the Black History Month calendar, it is evolving,” Windrow said. “We want to make sure that what we do is practical. We want to make sure that it has significance beyond the historical perspective … that it makes a difference here in present day times.”