University hosts MLK Week

Libby Darrell, Special Features Co-Editor

Time to Break the Silence

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy as an activist and leader in the Civil Rights Movement, the University is hosting its annual MLK Week. Called “Time to Break the Silence,” the remembrance events for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. will run Jan. 20-26.

This year, “Time to Break the Silence” aims to heighten the sense of awareness and empowerment in the community through the events over the course of the week; the hope is that these lectures and performances will inspire individuals and community members to create change. 

Julian Agyeman

Julian Agyeman, an urban and environmental policy and planning professor at Tufts University, visited the University on Monday to hold a lecture. His lecture offered an overview of how more sustainable and equitable cities will create a inter-cultural space for people to meet across various backgrounds.

“We are on a journey, and we must not stop traversing the hurdles, celebrating the highs, and pushing on with that dream,” Agyeman said, regarding King’s message. In addition to reminiscing on King’s work, he proposed sustainability as a contributing solution for inequality and marginalization between cultures. “The idea of sustainability really focuses on living within limits but also centering justice and equality. That will require the notion of sharing. How do we share cities better? How do we share space, whether it is parks or open spaces, or roads, the simplest of spaces?”

Amanda Gorman

Amanda Gorman visited the University on Jan. 22 for her reading event, “Poetry, Power and Protest: Using Language to Live by MLK’s Values.” As a junior attending Harvard University, Gorman has been honored as the first-ever Youth Poet Laureate of the U.S. and has been regarded as the “next great figure of poetry in the U.S.,” according to her website. In addition, she has spoken at the Library of Congress and alongside Jennifer Aniston, Morgan Freeman, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Al Gore and Hillary Clinton.

Lois Moses and Company

The Harvey Powers Theatre hosted Lois Moses and Company’s performance of “Say That He Had More Than a Dream” on Jan. 23. The play honored King’s legacy as a brave individual and recognized the sacrifices he made so that others could attain justice.

Allison Miller

On Friday, Jan. 24, Allison Miller will perform with her band, Boom Tic Boom. As an American drummer, performer, educator and composer, Miller will showcase her talent in a contemporary jazz performance at the University’s Weis Center for the Performing Arts beginning at 7 p.m. Tickets for the performance can be bought at the Campus Box Office.

MLK Service and Reception

MLK Week will finish on Jan. 26, first with an MLK Interfaith Service at 11 a.m. in Rooke Chapel. The service will be a multi-faith celebration of King’s life and legacy. An MLK Reception will be held in Rooke Chapel’s Meditation Chapel at noon.

Several organizations on campus support “Time to Break the Silence,” including the President’s Office, the Provost, the Freeman College of Management, the College of Engineering, the College of Arts & Sciences and the University Lectureship Committee, to name a few. Specifically, the University’s Griot Institute for the Study of Black Lives & Cultures attempts to engage the community in conversation regarding King’s work and importance. 

The Griot Institute for the Study of Black Lives & Cultures

The Griot Institute for the Study of Black Lives & Cultures utilizes the name “Griot,” which means “a central figure in many West African cultures,” who would function as the community historian and spokesperson, critic and artist, according to the University‘s website. The late Carmen Gillespie, a former English professor at the University, originally founded the Griot Institute. It is now under the leadership of Cymone Fourshey, an associate professor of history and international relations.

What is its mission?

The mission of the organization is to allow for a collaborative space — one in which students can explore “the aesthetic, artistic, and scholarly cultural products and intellectual currents of historical and contemporary Africana communities,” according to the Griot Institute’s website. 

In addition to sponsoring annual lecture and performance series, a book project series and bi-annual conferences, the Griot Institute dedicates itself to supporting student projects and undergraduate research. Each year, the organization aids an Africana Studies-Griot post-doctoral fellow, a Presidential fellow, a graduate student and several undergraduate students in their research endeavors. 

Past Projects

In the past, these student projects have included a Civil Rights Project — an archive of the University’s records from the Civil Rights Movement. The archive contains everything from that era at the University, including materials from its NAACP chapter and scholarship opportunities for students of color, reports of issues black students faced, information on African American visiting speakers and more documents from exchange programs the University had with historically black universities. The archive also records the University’s aim to increase diversity.

As a Speak UP Peer Educator, Noa Evenhaim ’21 is familiar with the topic of inequality as a whole and recognizes the importance of both MLK Week and the Griot Institute.

“A key part of [Speak UP] is discussing the various inequalities prevalent in our daily lives, especially those on [the University’s] campus,” Evenhaim said. “It is easy to lose hope for equality when participating in these heavy conversations. This is why a day like MLK day is so important. It stands as a symbol for hope: that we can and must continue to want progress to reach a state of justice and equality.”

With the reminder of King’s legacy coming from events like MLK Week and projects of the Griot Institute, students should not need any more inspiration to strive to achieve justice for all.

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