Here at Ursinus, Martin Luther King Jr. is honored not with just a day of service, but with a week of activities, exhibitions, and film screenings.
Martin Luther King Jr. Week takes place at Ursinus in January during the first three days of the Spring semester. The celebration is in honor not only of MLK but the Civil Rights Movement. Across campus, the words of great African American artists, thinkers, writers, activists, performers, and others are displayed.
Before 2017, Ursinus didn’t take a day off school, to commemorate the civil rights activist or movement. They did, however, have celebrations for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. day in the past including community wide presentations. In 2007, for example, they held a week of events to commemorate the activist and in 2009 they held a public presentation of poetry, music, and dance in the Kaleidoscope to honor Dr. King. Recently, renewed energy around honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on campus, and taking the day off from school to do so, has been spurred by student activism, including protests for greater campus diversity and public social media posts, as well as faculty efforts to bring greater acknowledgement of King and his work.
According to Special Assistant to President Blomberg, Heather Lobban-Viravong, the theme for MLK Week 2019 is “Claiming Spaces: Service, Community, Reflection.”
For this years’ festivities, “we’re drawing on the successes of last year and trying to create an even wider range of activities, including…drawing in community members” said Associate Dean and Professor of English, Meredith Goldsmith.
There are some things that are different about this year’s celebration from years past. Lobban-Viravong said, “the week will begin with MLK Day of Service, which is being organized by Katie Turek and Professor Christian Rice. Faculty and staff will be invited to participate in the service trips this year, which is something new.”
Lobban-Viravong explained, “the coordinating team wanted to be more mindful about using a variety of spaces on campus to talk about Dr. King’s legacy as well as to suggest that discussions about, and the work related to, social justice and inclusion and equity is a shared responsibility and doesn’t just belong to one office or one person on campus…we hope to hold events in the Berman, Myrin, IIE, Kaleidoscope, the Floy Lewis Bakes Center, and possibly the residence halls. As well, we want to send a message that says everyone is invited to participate in these events; it is a week that belongs to all of us.”
Lobban-Viravong stressed the importance of involving anyone and everyone who wants to be a part of this celebration. She emphasized, “I should also add that we intend to extend an invitation to the surrounding community to join us for some of the events.
Community members could possibly show up to view the films that will be shown that week, take a tour of the banners, or attend the discussion on religion and the civil rights movement that is scheduled for the end of the week.”
One of the main events expected to be popular is the facilitated conversations about specific passages in Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me.” It will be followed by a theater performance of specific passages from the book.
Some other exciting events will take place in the Berman Museum and the Myrin Library.
Lobban-Viravong explained, “The Berman has offered to display works from African-American artists in the Works on Paper room” and Myrin “will honor the legacy of Dr. King, and also celebrate W. Robert Crigler ’56, the first African-American graduate from Ursinus and the namesake of the Crigler program.”
Along with these exhibits, there will be two films shown this year. Lobban-Viravong stated, “The Greek organizations are sponsoring the film, ‘The Hate U Give,’ which will be shown early in the week. The second film will be a documentary based on the bombing of the MOVE headquarters, an event that affected many homes and lives on Osage Avenue in Philadelphia in 1985.”
In addition, different events will occur across campus. “There will be…a display of banners with quotes from various thinkers, performers, and writers” said Lobban-Viravong.
Goldsmith elaborated on the banners, “We started the banners with quotes from prominent African Americans of all walks of life – scientists, artists, performers, people of faith, etc. – last year, and we’re doing it again and adding a few more.”
There are several people responsible for making this celebration happen. Lobban-Viravong listed all of the coordinating team which consisted of Professors Meredith Goldsmith and Danielle Widmann Abraham, Monique Kelly, Joe Trump, Terrence Williams, and herself.
Lobban-Viravong talked about students who are involved, as well other notable staff and faculty members. Student representatives included Kelsey Blake, Stephanie Guzman, and Ace Melendez. Faculty and staff members include Director of the Berman Museum and Collections Manager Julie Choma, who will play an integral role in some of the events, Assistant Director of UCARE, Katie Turek and Professor of Theatre, Domenick Scudera have worked on the events as well.
Events in celebration of MLK week will be held between January 23 through the 25. Lobban-Viravong encourages students who have quotes for the celebration to submit them here: https://ursinus.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_8tXgy1bzx8eKN6Z.
This post was updated to reflect the school’s previous history of holding Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations. Previously, “The Grizzly” published that there had been no campus celebrations of the activist before 2017.