Students Revive Old Organization, Hold MLK Celebration

PLAINVIEW – Joining hands around the room, students exchanged smiles and nods while listening to Wayland Baptist University senior Daniel Coutinho read Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Afterward, students of all nationalities mingled and visited food tables for seconds from the smorgasbord of goodies held in celebration of the late civil rights leader.

For Miki Mays, the scene could not have been more perfect. A sophomore from Fort Worth, Mays is president of Harambe (pronounced huh-rom-bay), a student organization that promotes unity among the cultures. She started the organization in the fall after visiting with her pastor, Richard Miller, of Happy Union Baptist Church.

“I had expressed a desire to have all the various cultures at Wayland united, and he started telling me about Harambe, a group they had when he was a student here in the 1980s,” Mays explained, adding that the older group sounded exactly like what she was looking for.

“Back then, we wanted a group that was about diversity, and we did a lot of things together for students where they didn’t have many requirements to join, just coming together under Christ,” Miller said of the original group. “When Miki first came to the church, she just had a fire about her and wanted to do something for Jesus, so I suggested she start the group back up.”

This summer, the group purchased t-shirts bearing their name, began selling them for a fundraiser and spreading the word about their purpose. Their key Bible verse, Ephesians 4:13, helps bear that out: “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”

“The purpose of Harambe is just to get the different ethnic cultures together and hang out under the name of Christ,” she said. “We have cultural food nights and Bible studies, and the whole point is to get people mingling with other people they might not know.”

Since August, the group has met monthly for fellowship. The Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration held Monday was the first for the group and one Mays hopes to see become an annual event. About 35 students turned out for the occasion, along with supporters from various churches in Plainview.

A member of the Flying Queens basketball squad, Mays enlisted some friends with similar interests to form a core group, including fellow teammate Anastasia Okolo of Houston, Caroline Oladipo of Richmond, Va., Kim Gilder of Colmesneil, Jeree Green of Glenn Heights, Michal Polanowski of Konin, Poland, and Maureen and Daniel Coutinho, siblings from Comoros, Africa. Staff member Priscilla Edwards of Barbados joined in as well, and associate professor of sociology Debra Lavender-Bratcher has gotten involved recently.

Mays credits her pastor and others at Happy Union with great support, in prayer and financially. She also notes that Helen Brooks of Outcast Ministries has been supportive of the venture as well.

While the group is still young, Mays feels Harambe is already achieving its goals and will continue to grow. She’s working on continuing to get the word out and make sure students understand the group is for all people, regardless of race or nationality.

“I do feel we’ve accomplished the mission God’s given me to unify the cultures, but it can only get bigger as we go,” she said.