On Monday, Jan. 15, classes paused in recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Campus, however, remained active as students, faculty and community members participated in activities to celebrate and reflect MLK’s life.
The day kicked off with a campus and community brunch in Art Smith Arena that featured speeches, music and awards. As the campus and community came together, the key focus was how we can continue to act through service.
Students on Alma College’s campus are exposed to service opportunities regularly, but this event allowed a different opportunity for engagement.
“Our key message was that we should be engaging in service activities in a deeper way rather than treating service as a one- and-done sort of activity. We tried to have programs throughout the day that brought more awareness to the participants,” said Julia Dang, Assistant Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Alma College.
“I was moved by the presence and attentiveness of the audience. Seeing students, faculty and professors alike, all motivated to grow in understanding, speaks great volumes to the priority of the Alma College community as it applies to diversity and inclusion,” said Claire Peterson (‘23).
This is an important reminder of the power we have as a campus and community. When we all turn our heads toward a common goal or issue, we can learn and accomplish so much more.
“We hope from this experience that students are able to see how important it is to be aware of some of the positions that folks around us are in—even folks that are sitting beside us every day,” said Dang.
“When we’re in positions where we have privilege, it’s so important to leverage that and be able to support those who are struggling. Sometimes, it’s giving up your time for service, and sometimes it’ll be dedicating some time to furthering your understanding,” said Dang.
MLK Day is not just a time to reflect, but a chance to learn and grow. An integral way students participated in this brunch was through music. The choir performed two pieces: “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “Say Her Name.”
“To me, both of these songs are meant to bring continuous awareness… awareness that our world is still not where it should be. We are not yet created equal if there are citizens out there living in fear of those who are meant to protect us and keep us safe,” said Jennifer Dake (‘24).
Music is a powerful tool for communication. It provides an outlet for expression that may not be possible otherwise. This is especially important when its focus is on social justice.
“Music allows people to express their feelings in a creative way. For me, singing these two songs for MLK day is my way to show and express to people the importance of these issues. I am not always the best at talking about social or political issues, so music is easier for me. I can feel and put a lot of emotion into what I am singing,” said Dake.
The brunch also provided an opportunity for individuals and organizations to be recognized for their work to advance diversity and inclusion. The Excellence in Inclusion award was handed out to a student, faculty and staff member along with community and campus organizations.
The community engagement fair promoted campus and community service opportunities.
Students could explore the tables to gain more information about these organizations and sign up for communication about future service opportunities. In the afternoon, various sessions were held for programs centered around oppression and inequality. These sessions included the Poverty Simulation, Illustrating the Dream, MLK gallery walk and the Gender-Affirming Closet.
“When you’re serving without the context of the why then your efforts might feel only surface level. On the other hand, when you’re able to truly elaborate on how different communities have been affected by socially unjust systems of oppression, it gives your entire experience more depth,” said Dang.
Each afternoon program was aimed to allow for this elaboration and give more hands-on opportunities for education.
Additional activities throughout the week included the Blood Drive on Monday, Jan. 16, Hilson History Slam on Wednesday, Jan. 18 and the 2023 Unity Celebration on Friday, Jan. 20.
If you missed these events, or are interested in attending more diversity and inclusion programs, there are more upcoming opportunities.
“[In] the month of February, many of our programs will be geared toward Black History Month topics. Black Student Union has a huge part in helping us organize and host events,” said Dang.
The full schedule of Black History Month events can be found on the campus calendar.