Erskine’s Martin Luther King Day celebration in Bowie Chapel Jan. 21 marked the ninth annual MLK Day observance on the campus as well as the first time an Erskine College alumnus has been featured as keynote speaker for the event.
This year’s speaker was Corey Emanuel Chapman, a 2005 graduate from Belton, S.C., who is founder and CEO of Corey Emanuel Omnimedia.
The courage of a calling
“Dare to be different,” Chapman told his audience.
“‘The tendency of most is to adopt a view that is so ambiguous that it will include everything and so popular that will include everybody…for fear of being called different,’” he said, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King.
Describing King’s legacy as one of courage, Chapman noted that the civil rights leader was arrested 30 times.
“Taking calculated risks creates opportunities—opportunities for you and opportunities for those around you,” he said. “Dr. King was considered a trailblazer because he knew that in order to change his circumstances and the circumstances of those around him, it would take a great level of boldness.”
Chapman, who said he felt his own calling at an early age, issued a challenge.
“Realize you have a unique purpose,” he said.
“If you are sitting here right now, breathing in and out, your work is not finished yet. You’ve got to get that if you don’t get anything else I say today,” he added.
“One of the things Dr. King said upon entering college was that there was ‘An inner urge calling me to serve society,’” Chapman said. “And it happens for all of us at different ages.”
An important part of following a call or fulfilling a dream, he said, is accepting the reality that “Everyone will not always like you.”
In “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” King wrote, “If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work.”
Access awareness, avoid ego
Chapman also advised young people to “Access your self-awareness,” understanding their strengths as well as their weaknesses. “Let’s face it, you won’t always know the answer,” he said. “But what Dr. King did was surround himself with people who were smarter than him.”
In his work as a media producer, Chapman explained, one of his strengths is “to be able to plan for a great finished product.”
However, he said, “what I can’t do, simultaneously, is shoot, direct, produce, wrangle up talent, make sure everyone is fed, etc.”
Knowing your own strengths and weaknesses, and being honest about them, “can net you the trust of others, ultimately increasing your effectiveness.”
For Chapman, “The more aware you are of yourself, the less room there is for your ego to show up.”
He once heard that the ‘EGO’ stands for “edging God out,” Chapman told his Erskine audience. “Dr. King was someone who was dependent on God’s principles to lead him and his decision making. Therefore, there was no room for ego.”
Friends of all ages
“Now this last point is pretty much self-explanatory,” he said. “But I’m sure if Dr. King were living today he would say that his dream would have been nothing without a team of family, friends, peers and colleagues supporting him along the way.”
Focusing on college students in the audience, and drawing on his own Erskine experience, he stressed the importance of friendships not only with fellow students, but also with “professors, administrators, deans, and even the president.”
As a result of such networking at Erskine, Chapman was happy to be able to arrange a meeting with an executive from a large pharmaceutical company. But on the day before the meeting, the executive called to say that the company had begun a hiring freeze. Chapman, who had been working in a pharmacy since the age of 15, was disappointed.
“As the result of another forged relationship with an Erskine board member, I was able to interview shortly thereafter for a banking position,” Chapman said.
He only had a week off between graduation and the start of his banking job. “You never know how the course of your life is going to change in a matter of minutes and it’s always nice to be able to call on friends that can make things happen quickly.”
Chapman concluded his remarks by returning to Martin Luther King and his accomplishments.
“I have a dream. And I believe you have dreams of your own,” he said. “Dr. King laid the foundation for so many of us to continue opening doors that are seemingly closed and locked.”
Stressing the significance of each person’s contribution, Chapman said, “I don’t care how big or how far-fetched your ideas or vision appear to be. We need what only you can bring. There’s room for that special gift—that unique purpose—your dream.”
This year’s Martin Luther King Day convocation was presented in conjunction with “Visit Erskine on MLK Day,” an opportunity for high school students and their families to become acquainted with Erskine College.
Corey Emanuel Chapman, a business graduate, went on to earn a master’s degree in communication from Columbia University in New York. He worked as an editorial trainee for CNN’s “In America” documentary unit alongside anchor and correspondent Soledad O’Brien. Now living in Atlanta, he is the founder and CEO of Corey Emanuel Omnimedia and the author of a recently published children’s book, Can I Be President, Too?