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This year, West Chester University honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a day of activities on Thursday, Jan. 26, including service projects, performances, meals and movies.
The highlight of the celebration is the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., brunch on campus, when West Chester University alumni who have made significant contributions to society are recognized. This year, two alumni will be honored as Drum Majors for Justice: longtime educator Broadus Davis, who earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University in 1976 and 1986, respectively, and Gwen McKinney, also a 1976 graduate and head of the Washington, D.C. based public relations firm, McKinney & Associates.
The title Drum Major for Justice is taken from one of Dr. King's sermons, which he gave the same year he was assassinated. In that speech, Dr. King talks about his life and how he hopes to be remembered:
"If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don't want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. Every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. … Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice; say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness."
The schedule for Thursday, Jan. 26 is below, followed by bios of the Drum Majors. With the exception of the brunch and dinner, the events on Jan. 26 are free. All are open to the public:
10 a.m. The 19th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Brunch. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., video/student interviews (runs continuously). Help feed our community: Bring a monetary donation to the registration table and receive a limited edition MLK button. All donations go to the West Chester Food Bank. Sponsored by West Chester University and the Frederick Douglass Society. Tickets: $35 per person or $280 for a table of eight. Available at SSI Ticket Office: 610-436-2266. Sykes Student Union Ballrooms.
12:15 p.m. The Gospel Choir performs in Sykes Theatre.
3 to 5 p.m. Giving Comfort to children in hospitals. Join others in making fleece blankets for child patients at Chester County Hospital and DuPont Hospital for Children. Office of Service Learning and Volunteer Programs. Sykes Ballrooms.
4:30 to 7 p.m. Soul Food Dinner. Rams Head Food Court in Sykes. $6.50 (WCU students can use their meal plans).
8 p.m. Film presentation of The Help. The bestseller by Kathryn Stockett comes to life through the powerful performances of a solid ensemble cast including Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Bryce Dallas Howard. Very different, extraordinary women in the 1960s South build an unlikely friendship around a secret writing project — one that breaks society’s rules and puts them all at risk.
Broadus W. Davis
In June 2011, Broadus Davis retired from the Bristol Borough School District following 35 years of public school service, and is currently serving as the acting superintendent in the Franklin Township School District in Hunterdon County, N.J.
Davis has taught at the elementary, middle and high school level and has held administrative positions at all levels. He began his teaching career in the Bristol Borough School District in 1976 after completing his undergraduate education degree. He taught socially and emotionally disturbed children in the fourth through sixth grades, designing a program to help them develop a positive attitude.
In the early 1980s, he taught at Bristol High School, where he developed a program to aid disturbed students. He influenced students on the playing fields as well, serving as a head varsity coach in basketball, football and track and field in middle school. After 16 years as a special education teacher and football coach, he went to the University of Pennsylvania as an assistant lightweight football coach.
Davis admits he wasn’t the best at buckling down to his studies in his own school days. In an article on his retirement in the Bucks County Courier Times, he said, "l was a fighter and the non-compliant one in the classroom. l was always the one who did the opposite."
But his parents and coaches in football and basketball straightened him out. “Getting involved in athletics gave me positive attention and a sense of self-worth,” he said in the same article. “My coaches were my mentors. They told me right away to clean up my act or turn in my uniform.”
Davis wore a different uniform after high school graduation when he joined the Navy, serving until 1973. He earned an associate of arts degree from Bucks County Community College, then both his bachelor’s and master’s in education at West Chester University. After completing his doctorate in educational leadership at Immaculata University, he began his career as a school administrator:
– 1993: assistant principal, Neshaminy High School.
– 1996: assistant principal, Maple Point Middle School.
– 1999: principal, Neshaminy’s Carl Sandburg Middle School.
– 2003: Superintendent of Schools in the Bristol Borough School District.
In a communication to the families of students in the Franklin Township School District, where he is serving as acting principal, Davis explains how collaboration has contributed to his success:
“… My fundamental approach to leadership is from the standpoint of collaboration and action which lends itself to this year’s theme of “Moving Forward Together.” Our students will acquire the skills necessary for success in the 21st century only if the community continues to rally support around our school.”
Gwen McKinney owns McKinney & Associates, the first Washington, D.C.-based African-American and woman-owned public relations firm that expressly focuses on social justice marketing.
McKinney currently enjoys a strategic communications partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the largest health philanthropy in America. Since 2008, her firm has served as strategic counselor and managing partner for the RWJF Human Capital portfolio, which engages five communications firms to provide communications support and services to the RWJF grantees and the internal program team.
McKinney established her connections to philanthropic and social ventures shortly after graduation from West Chester, when she spent the late 1970s covering issues affecting the African-American community in Philadelphia for the Tribune. She later became a columnist and Washington correspondent for several minority-owned newspapers, had articles syndicated in newspapers across the nation by the National Newspaper Publishers Association (an organization comprising more than 200 minority-owned newspapers), and wrote for Essence and Black Enterprise.
In 1980, she founded and directed the Namibia Information Service, a special project supported by the United Nations. It disseminated news to the U.S. media and non-governmental organizations on developments in Namibia during the period before the U.N.-supervised elections and independence. She became involved with the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa during that time and co-founded and was national co-coordinator for the National Alliance of Third World Journalists, an association of U.S. journalists and media professionals.
McKinney entered the public relations field when she was tapped to be press secretary for Washington Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who, at the time, was running for election for her first term in Congress in 1990.
''That provided another opportunity for me to transition to use my skills in understanding the press and the media and then to position myself as an advocate, a representative and a voice for a client,'' McKinney said.
The firm’s first big break came in 1992, when she signed the NAACP Legal Defense Fund as a continuous retainer client from 1992-2007. During that time, McKinney accumulated a client list that included other NGOs, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the Metropolitan Washington Council/AFL-CIO, the TransAfrica Forum, and Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington.
Throughout her success, McKinney has remained true to her principle of not taking on clients or organizations with views she doesn’t support. Today, the agency focuses on criminal justice advocacy, particularly issues surrounding the death penalty and race, as well as civil rights and environmental issues. They are also exploring involvement in health and health equality issues and labor rights.