Two weeks of virtual events will take place during the Spring 2021 semester to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Programming from Jan. 25 to Feb. 5, consisting of student-led discussions, faculty panels and alumni social mixers. This year’s keynote speaker is human rights advocate, political activist and author Angela Davis, who will present virtually via Zoom on Thursday, Feb. 4.
Director of the ALANA Cultural Center Esther Rosbrook said she is excited for this coming semester’s virtual celebration.
“Each year I always look forward to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s celebration on campus because of the programs’ selections and their impacts on our community. Dr. King’s legacy reminds us to love and live together in harmony. As part of the Colgate University community, we understand the importance for us to work together and thrive, particularly during difficult times such as right now. This year, we have a great list of programs and events,” Rosbrook said.
This year’s virtual format allows for students to network with alumni during the celebration, Rosbrook said.
“This year, we [will] also bring our students, staff, administrators and alumni to be part of our educational, professional developmental, networking and social events. I am hoping that everyone will take advantage of the two weeks of full high-quality events with us,” Rosbrook said.
Assistant Director of Alumni Relations for Affinity and Identity Programs Veronica McFall further described the support of alumni making many of these events possible.
“MLK week will be especially poignant, as we have collectively lived through one of the most challenging years in recent memory. It will also mark the first time that the ALANA Cultural Center and the Mosaic Initiative have partnered to create panels and opportunities for students and alumni to meet and learn from one another,” McFall said.
Junior Thomas Dunia will be involved in the Post-inauguration Dialogue and panelist for the Identity Politics Student Panel during the week of celebrations. Dunia said he decided to take part in these events to explain the importance of understanding how identity fits into the political sphere and systems of oppression.
“Colgate, in general, is a tough environment to be in being a minority, and I feel like a lot of students for the first time in a while finally took time to understand why not only this election matters for them but why it matters for people of color who not only struggle on campus but struggle out in the real world having to navigate white spaces and still being pushed back because you have to act a different way to fit in a certain space,” Dunia said.
Dunia discussed how identity politics can be used to bring people together as well as drive them apart.
“Nowadays we are more polarized than ever and people are more concerned about how politics affects their own lives and how it affects the larger community. Instead of generalizing what is a good thing as a whole, people are using identity politics to protect their own beliefs which, in my opinion, is selfish and leads to a polarized country where people are more concerned with ‘how politics relates to me’, and that takes away the whole point of BLM. This zero-sum game and uplifting the marginalized community doesn’t necessarily benefit politics in the sense of bringing the country together.” Dunia said.
It is important to emphasize the intersectional nature of identity politics, according to Dunia.
“Race is always going to be an issue in America and throughout recent history we have gone backward in terms of racial progress. Just talking about race or women’s rights or women’s empowerment or LGBTQ specifically doesn’t necessarily mean that something else doesn’t matter. That’s what identity politics is about; it’s good to use identity politics to represent commonalities of all of us on campus and in society as opposed to trying to pick specific issues that polarize us,” Dunia said.
Rosbrook and all ALANA staff have been working hard to plan and prepare for all the events of this week. ALANA Social Justice Peer Educator and first-year Lara Shqair will be facilitating the Post-inauguration Dialogue and Identity Politics Student Panel.
“Something that went into MLK week was creating an environment for students to be educated and to educate. It’s really important that Martin Luther King’s exemplar of hope and faith is highlighted to create an outlet of discussion for students to reflect and take action on campus,” Shqair said.
Shqair said she is most excited about promoting awareness of difference through dialogue in these discussions.
“It’s eye-opening to see students open up about issues facing different communities of color and reflecting on Dr. King’s philosophy in ways of taking action and being more aware of their privileges,” Shqair said.
ALANA Ambassador and first-year Elannah De La O will be hosting some of the events, including The Identity Politics Discussion and the Post MLK Virtual Social for students.
“For ALANA’s MLK Week Celebration, I have been working closely with the ALANA team to make this process go as smoothly as possible using an online setting. As I am a first-year, I am so excited to be able to participate in the first place. From our alumni and student mixers to conversations with faculty to our Keynote Speaker, Angela Davis. I truly think all the events scheduled are amazing and encourage everyone to start signing up now,” De La O said.