College community celebrates King’s message of service, unity

A varied group of professors, students and members of the College community assembled to commemorate the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in a multi-faith service in Thompson Memorial Chapel yesterday. The commemoration was organized as part of a series of events centered around Dr. King’s message of service.

After a brief musical prelude, Gail Bouknight-Davis, associate director of the Multicultural Center (MCC), welcomed the audience and introduced Dean Roseman.

Roseman emphasized the continuing pertinence of King’s message, particularly given that “we seem to be struggling more than usual over the issue of race,” referring to the recent debates over the implementation of affirmative action in college admissions and some of the Bush Administration’s policies regarding the treatment of non-citizens living in the United States.

She also highlighted a cooperative service project going on this week organized by the Black Students Union (BSU) and the Lehman Community Service Council. The project will continue throughout the week with workshops at local elementary schools aimed at familiarizing students with King’s life and ideas; a visit to Chrysalis Community, a residence for patients suffering from advanced stages of AIDS; and a “Live Etiquette” workshop at the Berkshire Farm.

Roseman was followed by a short invocation and singing of the hymn “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” by the entire congregation.

Several readings commemorating the events of the civil rights struggle followed the hymn. Sandra Burton, coordinator of dance at the College, read several short first-person vignettes discussing the tension of the time as well as the energy invested in challenging prevailing social norms.

Representatives from various campus religious groups like the Williams Christian Fellowship, Muslim Students Union and the Williams Jewish Association read passages from their respective traditions.

The readings were punctuated by performances by the gospel choir, which sang “I’ve Got a Robe,” “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” and “We’ve Come This Far By Faith.” The Concert Choir also performed a piece entitled “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.”