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A community of unity

A community of unity: MTSU luncheon kicks off black history events
As published on Tennessean.com
By Doug Davis

Darrell Freeman told the guests gathered inside MTSU’s James Union building Wednesday that the words of the Declaration of Independence can be used to reach economic empowerment.

He read: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

“These famous words represent your personal manifesto of Economic Empowerment,” said the two-time MTSU graduate and keynote speaker of the 14th annual Unity Luncheon, held in conjunction with the university’s Black History Month celebration.

“You and I should think, talk, act and live as if these words are meant for us,” he said.

After sharing economic success stories of three people in history, the founder and chair of Zyrcron Inc., an international information technology services firm in Nashville, shared his own story in the third person.

“His parents didn’t finish high school,” he said with emotion. “His mother worked as a maid and other odd jobs. He believed education was the tool he needed … .”

Freeman graduated with a bachelor’s of science degree in 1987 and a master’s degree in 1990 and became a success in multiple ventures in the business world.

“I believe that the Declaration of Independence was written for me,” he said.

Every individual, group or organization must create economic empowerment through a great attitude and being willing to work hard, he continued.

Three unsung heroes were recognized at the banquet:

  • Mary McKnight Wade, the first African-American female to be elected to the Murfreesboro City School Board and board chair for the second term;
  • Nora L. Clark Waters of Murfreesboro, a foster parent and long-time volunteer in community service;
  • and Bedford County Mayor Eugene Ray.

“I am excited,” Wade said in an interview with The Daily News Journal. Her parents, Dorothy

McKnight and William Gray McKnight, received the honor in 1999. “I feel honored to stand where they stood.”

Ray, Bedford County’s first black mayor, said the unsung hero honor was “very shocking” and a “big honor.”

Waters said she was “ecstatic” to receive the award.

“I am overwhelmed with the honor of being an unsung hero,” she said. “What I do is what I do. It’s just me. It just comes natural.”

Waters has three biological children and adopted two of the foster children she cared for over 20 years. She also helped to raise nine grandchildren. Waters also hosts National Night Out at Rogers Park.

The Unity Luncheon is the kickoff to Black History Month at MTSU. It is sponsored by the Black History Month Committee and the office of intercultural and diversity affairs at MTSU.

Valerie Avent, chairwoman of the Unity Luncheon committee, said Wednesday’s event was a “great success.”

“It’s one of the largest we’ve had in four years,” she said.

Avent, the oldest of four children of Bedford County Mayor Ray, estimated 200 people were present in the James Union Building.

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