Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) week at Elizabethtown College finds different ways to celebrate diversity on campus. Etown first began celebrating the week in 2005. The program has grown from a one-day celebration to a week-long one that allows students to celebrate on-campus diversity as well as global diversity. The College even cancels classes on the Monday of the week in order to allow students to participate in more events, attend discussions and do service projects scheduled for Monday.
This year, the College featured guest speakers discussing topics ranging from Jackie Robinson’s influence on King to racial politics of incarcerating women to voter suppression. However, the week featured more than just guest speakers. Students had a variety of ways to participate during the week by becoming involved in group discussions and events focusing on King’s work as well as celebrating diversity in music, culture and religion.
On Monday, Jan. 19, student development workshops about intercultural dialogue were held, focusing on the topic of the American Dream and how race, gender and class influence the concept. Additionally, Student Senate and President Carl Strikwerda held a campus community climate forum.
Monday, Jan. 19 also featured an “I Have Dream” Candlelight March. During the march, members of the College community read a quote about King and provided the quote’s significance both in its historical context and in contemporary society. Students also sang gospel songs to honor King’s civil rights march.
Later that evening, students then had the opportunity to participate in a gospel extravaganza. The event featured choirs, soloists, musicians, dancers and other artists, including Etown’s concert choir, Dolce and the all-female a capella group Melica. Associate Professor of Music Dr. Matthew Fritz directed the various music groups. The extravaganza allowed students to experience music from all different cultures, including some of the music popular during King’s time.
On Tuesday, Jan. 20, Rev. Amy-Shorner Johnson, assistant chaplain, held an interfaith prayer service. The service cited prayers from different religions that influenced King’s life and work. Through the service, students experienced the beliefs and values of different religions.
Students and faculty also discussed recent encounters in Ferguson, Mo. and New York, N.Y. and other cities that were influenced by race on Wednesday, Jan. 21. The day also featured a Soul Cafe that was held by Shorner-Johnson in honor of King.
Friday, Jan. 23 featured Dr. Pamela Barnett facilitating an intergroup dialogue with faculty and staff focusing on teaching and learning with diverse students, as well as one later in the day on creating a safe and inclusive college environment. The day also opened an art exhibit for social justice. Director of Art for Justice Ann Marie Kirk spoke about the exhibits at the College as well as the one in the Philadelphia Free Library. The exhibit will be available for viewing in the Student Resources Hallway in the Brossman Commons all semester. The closing event of the week was a culture shock event that allowed students and staff to celebrate and reflect on the week with one another.
Other events happening later in the semester that will also celebrate diversity include the showing of the film “12 Years a Slave” as a part of black history month on Thursday, Feb. 5 and “Black People and Africa Discussion,” a panel focusing on the complexity of the relationship between black people and African immigrants living in America, on Thursday, Feb. 12. The College will also host “Harlem Nights: A Celebration of the Harlem Renaissance” on Wednesday, Feb. 18. In March, Etown will host a live multimedia concert titled “HERstory: Celebrating Influential Women in History.”