Last Monday, the Davis Center hosted a series of events to honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Throughout the day, faculty, staff, students and Williamstown residents gathered all over campus to celebrate the noble social activist and the legacy he left behind.
The day began at noon with a screening of two films in Paresky Center: the film “Martin Luther King: An Amazing Grace,” written by James Baldwin and “Cicero March,” a short film about the Civil Rights Movement in Cicero, Ill. during 1966. The two films were shown in the middle of Baxter Hall on a projection screen. During its peak hours of activity, students buzzed around the student center, chatting and eating their lunches, while the voices of King and various civil rights activists permeated the hall. “Martin Luther King: An Amazing Grace” documented Dr. King’s struggle to bring an end to racial segregation in America, depicting his journey with a collection of newsreel footage and film from his speeches. The second film “Cicero March” focused on the violence during a specific civil rights march in a middle-class suburb of Chicago and presented a more comprehensive look into the racial savagery during the 1960s. Each film’s use of actual historical footage helped remind the audience that the past is still very much a part of our heritage and that it should never be forgotten.
Following the film screenings, The Center for Learning in Action held a Q&A session about experiential education, civic engagement, service learning and opportunities on and off campus. “The focus of this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the College is to make it a day about dialogue, activism and engagement,” Taj Smith, assistant director of the Davis Center, said. “Too often is MLK Day seen as just a day of service. Instead, it should be more focused on community engagement and activism.”
Later in the afternoon, Chaplain to the College, Rick Spalding led a traditional moment of silence in Baxter Hall. Before beginning the three minutes of silence, Spalding expounded upon the dichotomy that exists within the word “silence.” There is the silence that “keeps us breathing, keeps us reaching and keeps us staying alive,” Spalding said, but there is also the silence that “prevents justice for the civil rights of all people” that must be broken. Immediately following the moment of silence there was a reading of selected essays and poems, written by 5th and 6th graders from the Williamstown Elementary School, which spoke about King’s impact on the Civil Rights Movement and his legacy that followed. The event was concluded by a group of 4th graders from Brayton Elementary School who recited excerpts from the speeches of other civil rights activists such as Nelson Mandela and Malala Yousafzai.
The day was concluded with dinner discussions in Mission Park Dining Hall led by nutritionist Maria Cruz, Psychological Counseling Intern Rachel Honig and Program Manager of the Zilkha Center Brent Wasser. Students gathered in the West Lounge Cafe to engage in conversations titled “Influences On Body Image” and “Pass the Judgment, Please: Thoughts on Being Critical of Others’ Food Choices.”
In a time when hate crimes and social inequality are still occurring throughout the world, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a reminder of the lessons that the world can learn from the Civil Rights Movement. As Smith stated, “Our goal for this year’s celebration was to open up the campus to possible dialogue and heighten the awareness of students and community members alike of the social injustices that still exist.”