Lloyd Cheatom, a 2013 graduate of Saint Vincent College, was the guest speaker at Saint Vincent College’s memorial for the late Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights leader who was assassinated in 1968, on Jan. 24 at the Fred M. Rogers Center on campus.
Cheatom was born, raised and still resides in Pittsburgh. After graduating from Central Catholic High School, he received his bachelor of arts degree from Saint Vincent College. He is currently enrolled at Robert Morris University where he is pursuing a master of arts degree in instructional leadership.
In 2013, he was selected as a Heinz Endowments Graduate Fellow and worked within the Pittsburgh Public Schools. After the two-year fellowship, he and Kevin McNair and Samuel Morant co-founded a mentoring organization, “1Nation Mentoring LLC” whose mission is to improve underserved students’ academic achievement, self-esteem, social competence and behavior in order to reach their potential and make positive life decisions. With collaboration of the Crossroads and Extra Mile Foundations, he now works at Sister Thea Bowman Catholic Academy as the transition coordinator assisting seventh- and eighth-grade students to transition from middle school to high school.
Cheatom’s presentation was titled, “Conversatio: The Power of Continual Transformation.”
The evening began with the Saint Vincent Singers directed by Thomas Octave. The performance was followed by Kyanna Williams-Pate, a senior biology major from Pittsburgh, and former Visionaries of H.O.P.E. president, who was the master of ceremonies for the event.
Additionally, Rt. Rev. Douglas Nowicki, O.S.B., Archabbot of Saint Vincent, gave his remarks. “I can’t tell you how proud I am to see Martin Luther King Jr. and Lloyd Cheatom’s names on the same ticket,” he commented.
This was followed by student Ukandu Soverall, Interim Assistant Director of Multicultural Affairs. “I hope you all remember what you hear today,” Soverall said, “and remember him [Martin Luther King Jr.] in your own ways.”Cheatom began his presentation by reading the poem “Dreams,” by Langston Hughes.
“Transformation of the human mind and heart is a process,” he said. “When you fall in love with this process, you fall in love with life… Life is limited and precious.”
Cheatom discussed how his time at Saint Vincent College was a major influence on his life and the goals he wished to achieve. “Saint Vincent taught me to protect my dreams and empower my own life through education. They helped me plant the seed of greatness, and through the nurturing of my mind, they helped me control my individual success. Saint Vincent exposed me to the honest fact that how you learn is the foundation of your focus, to value myself, be honest, ethical and always practice strong moral values. The greatest lesson I received from this institution is to pay it forward: to never forget where I come from and to always give back to the next generation.”
Cheatom experienced many incidences of death in his life that presented him great sorrow and trial. “I lost cousins, brothers, uncles, mentees and friends all to gun violence. The same violence that took such a great man like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”
He went on to discuss how a person’s failures and heartaches can result in becoming the creative force in a person’s accomplishments and triumphs. “As my sufferings mounted, I soon realized that there were two ways I could respond to my situation. Either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into creative force,” he said.
Cheatom commented on Martin Luther King Jr.’s role as a father in addition to the other titles that he is known for. “Dr. King had many titles and wore many hats but the one title I feel that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves is that he was a father. I feel that this title alone is worth more than any doctorate, any degree, any award, that Dr. King received.”
He continued to tell the story of the tragedies that drive his career in helping others and continuing to “pay it forward.” “Nothing can prepare you for death, especially as a child. I know that pain. I know that heartache. I know that confusion. Let me be the first to tell you that that pain, heartache and confusion never goes away, no matter how many years pass.”
“In 2006, I lost two very special people in my life … On Oct. 7, 2016, that same pain struck once again with thunder in my heart. The same pain I felt in 2006 when my best friend was killed … During the funeral, as his family was waiting to enter the church, I stood at his feet, my eyes full of pain, with heartache. I just wanted him to get up, say it was okay, it felt so surreal. Why is my friend in this casket? He did everything he was supposed to do … I say that to say this. My quest is my creative force. My quest is my driving force. This is why I do what I do. But more importantly, this is why I love what I do.”
Cheatom ended his presentation by summarizing his motivation to help others. “I make it my mission to speak for the individuals who can no longer speak for themselves and to use every adversity, every pain, every heartache, as my driving force to mentor and turn children into tomorrow’s leaders,” he concluded.
Following Cheatom’s presentation, Cleona Helton, a junior communication major from Pittsburgh, delivered the “I Have a Dream” speech.
Dr. Michelle Gil-Montero, associate director of English and poetry, introduced the third annual MLK poetry contest first place winner, Laura Ward, a freshman philosophy and theology major from Cranberry Township. Ward recited her poem, “The Calumnia Manor Green House,” at the event.
The other winners include Daniel Guzik, sophomore biology major from Irwin, with “You’re The Writer” and Joseph Ferraro, a freshman corporate finance major from Ligonier, with “A Match.”
“You are all the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.,” Archabbot Nowicki said during his remarks. “He depends on you to make his dream reality.”
Photo: Lloyd Cheatom
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