MLK week community dinner facilitates discussion on social activism

Elizabeth Lagerback, Contributing Writer

People gathered in Larison Dining Hall on Jan. 21, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, for the “How We Examine Social Activism MLK Jr.” community dinner. The event brought students, faculty, and staff together to celebrate King and foster discussion about social activism on campus and in the world.

This community dinner was one of many events the University planned for MLK Week, which extends until Jan. 27. Other events included lunches, book discussions, and a goods drive. The community dinner event specifically focused on the topic of activism, as King was a world-famous activist.

Community dinners take place once a month at the University. They are held to bring people from around the University together and to promote discussion and thought about various topics. Students of all ages and faculty sat at small tables together to discuss topics that were presented to them, and large group discussions followed.

“It was a chance to gain different perspectives on activism from people that I would not normally talk to about this topic,” Luke Grover ’22 said.

Activism quotes out of context were shown on the board, and people were asked to discuss which quotes best fit their views on activism. After rigorous discussion, the quotes were revealed to be from Malcolm X, King, a KKK leader, and Adolf Hitler. This came as a shock to some people who initially said they agreed with the latter two quotes and some who did not initially agree with the first two. The point was to warn everyone of the dangers of taking quotes out of context and to show that some activists’ quotes are “cherry-picked,” so their complete viewpoints are not always as well known.

Small groups were then asked to discuss when acts of activism go too far and what good activism looks like. Grover said he “never really used to think about the fact that some forms of activism can be perceived as acts of terrorism.” While King was famous for his peaceful protests, other radical acts of activism can be seen as more controversial. Overall, participants discussed how the classification of an act can be flipped depending on its context. In the end, the dinner participants could not agree upon a point when an act of activism has gone too far.

Activism at the University was also discussed, and slides were shown comparing the University’s past activism to that of other universities like UC Berkeley and Columbia. Compared to these schools, the University has been less socially active.

“The part that stood out to me the most was when we were discussing activism on campus and a student brought up the fact that he doesn’t always feel safe on campus,” Julia McLagan ’22 said. “It got me thinking about how many people feel too unsafe to be active on campus and don’t have their voices heard because of all the institutions in place preventing minority students from that.”

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