Keeping The Dream Alive In 2005

“I have a dream that one day my four little children will live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Nearly 42 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaimed these words from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. On Monday, they were once more delivered to an audience, this time from a microphone set up in the O’Connor Campus Center.

The Colgate community joined together on Monday to honor the former Civil Rights leader. A full schedule of events was held, beginning at noon with readings from several of King’s works, selections included “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and the famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

A series of four interactive workshops were held at 1:00 p. m. and 4:00 p. m. in the afternoon to foster dialogue pertaining to the holiday. Associate Professor of History Charles Peter Banner-Haley’s held a workshop entitled “Martin Luther King’s Vision for Leadership in the 21st Century,” in which he challenged participants to consider our prospects for peace in the future.

“I agree that ignorance is the main problem,” sophomore Deanna McKay said. “We can’t educate the entire world, so you have to act on a more personal basis and show peace toward others.”

Multicultural Coordinator Christine Miller Kelly and Director of the ALANA Cultural Center Jaime Nolan combined efforts to facilitate “The Arts and Activism: Social Justice Theater.” Students were broken into groups and, without speaking to one another, were challenged to create snapshots of concepts such as “racism” and “social justice.”

Workshop attendees of Assistant Professor of Educational Studies Carolyn Kissane’s “The American School 50 Years After Brown: Looking Back to Understand Where We Are Now in 2005,” explored the issue of desegregation in America’s public schools.

At 4:00 p. m. Student Intern at the Upstate Institute Kia King and Jaime Nolan presented “Peterboro Abolition Hall of Fame: The Importance and Relevance of the Abolitionist Today.” There the life and work of abolitionist Gerrit Smith and his influence on the creation of an Abolition Hall of Fame to be opened in March of 2005 was discussed.

“[Gerrit Smith] didn’t view himself as anything higher than a freed slave,” sophomore Kia King said. Appropriately, the new Hall of Fame is using him as a standard for accepting potential candidates, as he was a vocal and hands-on proponent of abolition.

The day’s festivities concluded with a two-hour program in the Colgate Memorial Chapel. Members of the Sojourner Gospel Choir performed the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” followed by an original performance staged by Skin Deep 2005 entitled “I am 11 years old.” Written by the group and performed by 13 of its members, participants offered a collage of monologues about their first experiences with racism and discrimination.

Additionally, Hamilton Middle School students Gennady Julien, Phoebe Rotter and Antonio Barrera read their winning essays in the Second Annual “Letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Essay Contest.”

“It was really powerful when [the students] spoke to see that Martin Luther King’s message has lived on,” first-year Katie Castino said. “They will carry on his message and will continue to work towards MLK’s dream.”

Following these readings, Anne Deavere Smith delivered her keynote address entitled “Snapshots: Glimpses of America in Change.” Smith has written several plays about issues of racial tensions, including Twilight: Los Angeles 1992 about the race riots in Los Angles and Fires in the Mirror about tensions in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. A professor at NYU’s Tisch School of Theatre and also associated with the law school there, she presented a loosely woven array of monologues derived from interviewing subjects across America.

“I wish I could be part of their enjoyment…that I could live together with black people,” Smith said, quoting a Korean merchant in a monologue entitled ‘Swallowing the Bitterness.’ “But, after the riot, there is too much difference. The fire is still there.”

Still, Smith also offered a sense of optimism. In her monologue of Cornell West, ‘Hope,’ she relayed, “I’m a prisoner of hope. Never believe that misery and despair have the last word.”

Overall, her message was well received by a captivated Colgate audience. To Jaime Nolan, this was representative of the day as a whole.

“The day went really well,” she said. “Sessions were well attended, and the chapel was full. The outside press expressed an interest; they saw we were doing something big here. There are just so many things going on right now to speak across our divides of difference.”