Martin Luther King Jr. Day events pull campus together

The Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access and Social Justice Center, the Office of Spiritual and Religious Life, the Office of Civic Engagement and the United Faith Fellowship Church of God collaborated in hosting the Martin Luther King Jr. Week Celebration from Jan. 16, through Jan. 22.

The celebratory week began Monday with a dinner hosted by the UFFCG at St. Brigid’s Catholic Church, followed by a Q&A session at Pelletier Library with this year’s keynote speaker, Naim Edwards.

The event was attended by 39 students who gathered to hear Edwards talk about topics relating to food, community and racial justice work. Darnell Epps, the associate director of the IDEAS Center, helped plan the event and was pleased with the turnout considering classes had not yet started.

Whenever populations of people are discriminated against, there is unity.

— Lora Waybright

The following day, Edwards delivered the keynote address in the Tillotson Room of the Tippie Alumni Cent

When looking for a keynote speaker for the week, Epps emphasized that they wanted someone practical and theoretical experience.

Edwards currently works in Detroit as a garden designer and program manager for Voices for Earth Justice, and works on issues relating to food access and racial equality. He is originally a native of Pennsylvania, and still has family who live in Harrisburg.

“He challenged us to effect change,” Epps said. “He really emphasized that it takes time.”

A key theme of Edward’s presentation was encouraging the crowd to think about what they would be willing to give up for 381 days, referencing the time and sacrifice of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

After his visit at Allegheny College, Edwards embarked on a month-long trip to Ghana and Kenya.

“We know he is going to be doing a lot of speaking in the future because he is talented, gracious and knowledgeable,” Epps said.

On Wednesday night, Vice President of Hillel Hannah Firestone, ’19, collaborated with the IDEAS Center to show a film during the usual Late Late Night session that explored the complicated relationship between Jewish people and the civil rights movements. Firestone said the event attracted 5 students.

The Association for the Advancement of Black Culture and the IDEAS Center collaborated to host a showing of the PBS documentary “Slavery by Another Name” on Thursday, Jan. 19, in Quigley Auditorium.

This PBS documentary explored the 80 years following the abolition of slavery in the south. Flyers for the event said, “The film illuminates how in the years following the Civil War, insidious new forms of forced labor emerged in the American South, persisting until the onset of Word War II.” The screening was attended by 12 people, including both students and members of the community.

On Friday, Jan. 20, Hillel hosted a Shabbat dinner at the Jewish Community Center on Park Avenue. Twenty five students gathered to break bread and participate in a discussion about topics pertaining to King and Jewish history. They prayed in Hebrew, broke bread and shared wine, blending the Abrahamic tradition with modern themes of social justice.

“Jews have a history of fighting for justice with people of color,” said Adrienne Krone, director of Jewish Life. “Part of what motivates that is the history that Jews have of also being oppressed.”

Many of the Jews were only 20 years removed from occupied Europe at the time of the civil rights movements, which brought many of them together, Krone said.

Lora Waybright, ’17, who normally does not attend Shabbat, decided to attend because extra attention was drawn to it by the King celebration.

“Whenever populations of people are discriminated against, there is unity,” Waybright said.

Krone said the goal of the event was to create more community and foster conversation with Jewish students and the rest of the campus.

“The more people talk the more we understand one another, and the better off we will be,” Krone said.

On Jan. 21, the college hosted Service Saturday, which completed 10 projects in and around the Meadville community.

“The fact that the youth from Meadville are coming is great,” said Director of Civic Engagement Dave Roncolato in response to 25 Meadville students coming to volunteer and contribute to projects.

Roncolato said the participation of local youth was due in part to the work of Gabby Bradshaw from AmeriCorps VISTA.

The week concluded with a Christian service at Ford Memorial Chapel on Sunday, Jan. 22. Twenty four students, staff and community members gathered to pray, sing and hear reflections from a special speaker, Assistant Professor of Political Science John Christie-Searles, who spoke about the legacy of King.

“His Christianity was the cradle of his vocation,” Christie-Searles said. “His Christian values informed his message, his thinking and his oratory.”

In reference to issues such as racism, poverty and violence, College Chaplain Jane Ellen Nickell said “These are issues that should be of concern to all Christians; we need to find ways as individuals living in communities to make our voices count.”