This Monday, the campus celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The Center for Learning in Action (CLiA) commenced official celebrations at 11:30 a.m. in Paresky. As the inspiring words of King’s famous “I Have a Dream Speech” resounded through Baxter Hall, students wrote letters to prison inmates in the spirit of Dr. King’s missives written while detained in Birmingham Jail.
“You’re connecting with somebody that has a very different life than you, and that connection is huge,” said justin adkins, assistant director for gender, sexuality, and activism at the Davis Center. “It really is a converging of worlds.”
Through such convergences, adkins believes that we can live out Dr. King’s vision of a better world. “The action of a human making a connection with another human – that changes us … that changes everything, that changes the way you interact with the world.”
In addition, students participated in an anti-stereotyping book project in which they were asked to reflect on how they were seen by others in contrast to how they saw themselves.
“The anti-stereotyping project evolved organically out of the meetings with the leaders,” said Paula Consolini, director of the CLiA. “They sat together and talked. How do we build community? How do we raise voices to share the pain of negative stereotypes and also raise voices to talk about how the ways we can move beyond negative stereotypes?”
Before the activities ended, the dining hall staff presented their own contribution to the day’s events, serving free hot chocolate and hosting a build-your-own sundae bar to attract attendees.
As the main events approached, onlookers quickly filled Baxter Hall, resorting to sitting on tables, standing on the sides and climbing to the upper level to get a good view of the event.
At 3 p.m. a student-created video called “MLK: Understanding the Dream” premiered, in which members of the community shared what Martin Luther King Jr. Day represented and meant to them. Rick Spalding, chaplain to the College, was one of many faculty and staff members who spoke in the video.
“I find it a sobering day because I remember that many people have paid with their lives for the progress we’ve been able to make over the past couple of generations,” Spalding said. “It’s a day to remember with some sobriety the cost of this struggle in so many lives.”
After the video, students shared personal reflections about their experiences with stereotypes followed by speeches on solidarity. The speakers talked about injustice in today’s society, not only along racial lines, but also regarding gender, religion and nationality.
Spalding then stepped on stage and spoke about the impact of Dr. King’s powerful faith in people’s great virtues before ending the speeches with a moment of silence in his honor.
“He held these convictions as matters of faith,” Spalding said. “He lived as though they were true and in so doing, helped to make them true, or truer.”
After the silence, two students from Williamstown Elementary School came up to present personal essays they had written about Dr. King’s life and works. A lively dance performance by Kusika concludeded the day’s events.
Martin Luther King Day Jr. marked a time to annually remember and reinvigorate Dr. King’s efforts towards global unity by starting within our own personal communities, as student speaker Hamza Farrukh ’15 told the audience.
“I really do believe in the goodness and strength of this community, that we all are allies and that we do really care about the same ideas. What we need is need is a little bit more inspiration, more motivation, a push in the right direction,” he said.
Through the shared efforts of students, faculty and staff, the day’s events may have brought us, as Farrukh put it, “one step in that right direction.”