Moving Forward: FSU Golden Torch Lecture Series features Da’Vinchi and Sara Sidner as part of 2024 MLK Week events

Actor Da'Vinchi and CNN anchor Sara Sidner took the stage in FSU's Ruby Diamond Concert Hall as part of the Golden Torch Lecture Series. (Union Productions)

The Florida State University Student Government Association, in collaboration with Union Productions and the Office of Student Agencies and Institutes, welcomed actor Da’Vinchi and CNN anchor Sara Sidner for an inspiring intergenerational conversation during the annual Golden Torch Lecture Series Tuesday as part of the university community’s MLK Week celebration. 

MLK Week aims to bring the FSU and Tallahassee communities together to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his work to advocate for the civil rights of all. 

Da’Vinchi, who is best known for his roles in the TV series “Jessica Jones,” “Grown-ish,” “BMF” and “All American,” is an outspoken mental health advocate who is passionate about raising awareness of and engaging in conversations about available mental health resources, organizations and platforms. Sidner is an award-winning senior national and international correspondent who currently co-anchors CNN News Central and led the network’s coverage of the deaths of Michael Brown and George Floyd.

“Da’Vinchi and Sara’s moving conversation inspired everyone to continue working toward a more just and equitable world by honoring Dr. King’s memory and ideals and reaffirming the commitment to creating a better future for all, that starts with self,” said Felicia Williams, director of Student Engagement. 

This year’s MLK Week theme, “Moving Forward,” is based on King’s encouragement of people to move forward in pursuit of their dreams even when obstacles appear. Sidner spoke to how King persisted in his fight for civil rights for all.  

“MLK was not fearless,” Sidner said. “To fear is to be human. What makes Dr. King so incredible is that he felt that fear and did it anyway. He used faith and courage to overcome it.” 

Da’Vinchi and Sidner shared how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream personally influenced their lives and how his life and legacy serve as an example for all. 

“I’m so grateful for MLK and the dream that he had. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to see the dream that he had, but we get to reap the benefits of his dream.”  

– Da’Vinchi, actor

Having first learned about King in elementary school, Da’Vinchi believes in the importance of passing the torch to the next generation. 

“I’m so grateful for MLK and the dream that he had,” Da’Vinchi said. “Unfortunately, he didn’t get to see the dream that he had, but we get to reap the benefits of his dream.”  

Bringing their unique backgrounds with them to the conversation and Q&A, Da’Vinchi and Sidner also offered guidance on how to overcome adversity and to persist on the path to success. 

Da’Vinchi highlighted the importance of recognizing the value of mental health: “I started actively working on my mindset, and then I realized that’s what people call mental health. But to me I was just trying to become better. And then I went ‘wait — this is mental health.’ We care about physical health, and I think it should be done the same way with your mentality.” 

Sidner pondered the bigger picture of overcoming adversity from both external and internal forces: “We tend to think that ‘we shall overcome’ is just about overcoming the oppression that is done to others and us, but that is not where it ends. I argue that ‘we shall overcome’ is just as much about overcoming our own fears to be who we really are. To be our true authentic self even in the face of judgement.”  

The evening also honored recipients of FSU’s MLK Book Stipend award for students. Danelle Bernten and Jasani Robinson were named recipients of the $350 book stipends. Bernten is a graduate student studying modern and contemporary art whose award was provided by the Office of Student Agencies and Institutes. Robinson’s award was made possible by the Black Alumni Association and will help the second-year exercise physiology student with his aspirations of becoming a pediatrician.  

MLK Week events will conclude with Coffee Hour with the Center for Global Engagement from 5-6:30 p.m., Friday, Jan. 19. 

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