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UW-Superior students chosen to emcee King Day rally

Posted on Dec 20, 2012
Two UW-Superior students are chosen to serve as masters of ceremonies for the Martin Luther King Jr. Rally in Duluth.
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Jay Bowers and Terra Brister will share the podium at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Rally in Duluth

Jay Bowers and Terra Brister will share the podium at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Rally in Duluth

They first learned about the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from their grandparents. Now, UW-Superior students Terra Brister and Jay Bowers will help perpetuate that legacy when they serve as masters of ceremonies for the Martin Luther King Jr. Rally on Jan. 21 in Duluth.

The annual celebration attracts 400 to 600 people for a march from downtown Duluth to a rally at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. UW-Superior students and employees regularly take part in the march and rally, and in years past students have served as event marshals and led the march. Brister and Bowers, however, are the first UW-Superior students to be part of the program.

'An honor'

"It's an honor to do it," said Bowers, a wellness and fitness management major from Pasadena, Md. "It will be fun, and at the same I'll be nervous."

Event organizer Doug Bowen-Bailey contacted Ivy Vainio, multicultural student services specialist in the Multicultural Affairs Office, to request two UW-Superior students to serve at this year's event. While she had many talented people from which to choose, she didn't hesitate about who to contact.

"The first two people to come to mind were Terra and Jay," Vainio said.

"Terra is in her second year here. She's very involved in the Black Student Union. I can see her potential for being a leader," Vainio said. "With Jay, I'm impressed with him because he was chosen to go to Texas for an athletic conference and while down there he volunteered for community service."

A little nervous

Both students admitted to being nervous about standing up in front of such a large crowd, but they welcome the experience.

"I'm not a public speaker but I like talking with people and joking around. So this will give me a push to speak to a broader audience," said Brister, sociology major from Milwaukee.

"I'm not really that big on talking in front of 400 or 500 people," Bowers said, but added, "I always like a challenge and a chance to overcome my fears."

At the rally, the pair will introduce speakers and performers. They'll work off a script but neither wants to memorize their parts so they can keep it spontaneous.

Understanding the legacy

Both students are acutely aware of the King legacy.

Bowers first learned about King from his grandmother. He's the first in his family to attend college, and family members are thrilled he's been chosen for serve at the rally.

"I've experienced racism," he said somberly. "I feel honored to do this because people still haven't evolved to where it doesn't matter about the color of your skin."

For Brister, her introduction to King came through a book she received as a child from her grandmother. She carried the book with her for years. When she was asked to serve at the Duluth rally, "it instantly brought that back to me. Now it's my time to share that with others," she said.

'We know you paved the road'

She wants older African-Americans to understand that, regardless of the younger generation's choices in dress or music, "we respect our elders. We still honor you. We know you paved the road for us."

"Each year, I am touched by our students' participation in this important day's events," Vainio said. "Terra and Jay, having an important role and place in the MLK Rally program this January, really shows that our UW-Superior students are leaders in the community - ones who the likes of Dr. King, Rosa Parks, and their ancestors would be proud of."

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