Music takes center stage at Oxford's 2024 MLK Celebration

Daniel Christian •

Oxford's 2024 MLK Celebration
Photo by Avery Spalding

Several student groups and a Newton County community choir performed at the annual celebration.

Oxford College and surrounding communities came together on the evening of January 17 to lift their voices in celebration of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Wade Manora Jr. greeting audience

Director of Oxford's Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Wade Manora Jr. helped organize this year's program.

Avery Spalding

Oxford’s annual MLK Celebration—hosted in conjunction with Emory King Week and held at Old Church just north of campus—featured musical performances from Oxappella under the direction of Dr. Emorja Roberson and two other Oxford groups directed by Dr. Marvin McNeill: the Chamber Ensemble and the Soul Collective, a new group inspired by the traditions of African American soul, funk, and R&B. Newton County’s MLK Interdenominational Choir also performed, and the audience opened the ceremony by signing together the hymn “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

“We wanted to expand some of the music offerings for this year’s program knowing we could use a lift going into 2024,” said Lyn Pace, Oxford College Chaplain. “That also gave us the opportunity to include even more student voices, which showcases the deep talent and gifts of our student body. The reactions and feedback to the music and our speakers showed us how deeply moving the whole of the celebration was for those in attendance.”

The Celebration was jointly sponsored by Oxford’s Office of Religious and Spiritual Life and Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ODEI). Oxford ODEI Director Wade Manora Jr. said it was a great start to the new year—and new semester for students—and offered a space of reflection for all.

Oxford alumna Mikayla Darville sharing a reflection

Mikayla Darville 23Ox 25C shared at the 2024 MLK Celebration.

Avery Spalding

“The celebration was based in the Oxford Principles of Presence, Care, and Belonging,” Manora Jr. said. “Of these three, I felt the principle of Presence most. The spirit of kindness and unity grounded everyone to think of how we can all be better to each other through the ideals that Dr. King promoted. And all of that is directly related to the idea of Presence—and being present with each other.”

This tone was set, according to Manora Jr., with the welcoming remarks from Co-President of the Black Student Alliance Ajani Claxton-Warner. Claxton-Warner’s prayer “washed over the program in the most meaningful and sincere way,” Manora Jr. said.

Tameka Cage Conley, Oxford assistant professor of English and creative writing, read three of her poems from Rise, a mixed-media piece that sets her words to the musical compositions of Judah Adashi. The poems— “A Blues, in the Light of Overcoming,” “O, Light (from Troy to All the Cities),” and “Alpha & Omega”—each spoke to the struggles and enduring legacy of the Civil Rights era.

A closing reflection was delivered by Oxford alumna Mikayla Darville, who shared why King’s life and work are still relevant and inspiring to her own generation.

“As we navigate our time, Dr. King's legacy guides us to actively oppose injustice, champion equality, and strive for positive transformation,” Darville 23Ox 25C said. “His teachings emphasize that creating a more just and inclusive society is a collective responsibility that goes beyond individual impact. Each unique step we take contributes to an ongoing journey toward a better, more equitable world.”