The theme for Missouri Southern’s 21st annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration was “A Call to Action: What Are You Doing for Others?”

It was a straightforward and powerful message, with a special address by Nimrod Chapel, president of the Missouri NAACP. In it, he addressed the need for accountability in our actions, and the need for people to “show up” in order to make strides in addressing economic, legal and social disparities that still exist.

Behind the scenes of the event, a different call to action was necessary to make the celebration possible. Due to the ongoing pandemic, it was necessary for it to be presented in a virtual format, said Shonte Clay-Fulgham, Missouri Southern’s coordinator of athletic sponsorship and sales and chairperson of this year’s event.

“In the past, this event has been a breakfast or an evening event with appetizers,” she said. “This year, it was all virtual, and incorporated a lot of technology.

“What I like most about the format is we can reach an unlimited number of people, and reach them anywhere. Using this technology, we don’t have to worry about attendance capacity or how much food we’ll need.”

The celebration was presented live from the KGCS-TV studio and streamed to audiences via Zoom. Victor Sly, a member of the University Police Department and president of the Joplin NAACP chapter, served as emcee.

He was joined by Dr. Dean Van Galen, who offered welcoming remarks; Keenan Cortez, Joplin’s mayor pro tem, who offered a special message from Missouri Gov. Mike Parson; and Terrence Scott, MSSU’s director of ticketing operations, who opened and closed the event with a musical performance.

Chapel’s message was delivered live from his office in Jefferson City, while pre-recorded musical numbers by the youth choir at Unity Baptist Church were also offered.

“We had to get the information out to people about the technology format, especially to the older generations,” said Clay-Fulgham. “We used television and fliers with QR codes to reach them and make it as simple as possible for everyone to use the Zoom format.

“The event had to be pieced together, but we didn’t want it to feel like you were just watching a YouTube video. We want to thank the staff at KGCS and the IT department who worked on a day off to make this happen.”