ALANA Cultural Center Hosts MLK Celebration Week

Karenna Warden, Assistant Sports Editor

Last Monday, the ALANA Cultural Center hosted a kickoff ceremony in the university’s chapel for Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Week that featured speakers, singers and dance performances. The kickoff on Monday evening was followed by a keynote speaker event on Thursday, Jan. 27, featuring motivational speaker and diversity trainer Eddie Moore. 

This year, the theme for MLK week was “Legacy Through Unity in Diversity.” Between the kickoff and keynote events, Colgate’s MLK celebration included a variety of activities, including a brown bag event on activism, a day of service and a dinner dialogue. 

In introducing the MLK kickoff ceremony, Esther Rosbrook, director of the ALANA Cultural Center, discussed the importance of this theme. 

We hope that through attending some or all of the MLK Week programs, [the community] understand the urgency of creating that legacy right here and right now, even by starting something small like having conversations and connecting with people who do not necessarily look like us or have the same visions as ours,” Rosbrook said.

Rosbrook elaborated on what the opening ceremony in particular meant for the memorial week.

“The annual opening ceremony of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King serves multiple purposes: It honors the total legacy of Dr. King, his works and hopes, and how Dr. King’s work and history influence our DEI and anti-racism work on campus as well as highlight the talents of our diverse community,” she said.

Senior Keilani Blas also touched on many of the struggles that the Colgate multicultural community currently faces. She was excited by the opportunity to speak at the ceremony.  

“It was an honor to be invited to speak at the MLK opening ceremony, and because of that I felt that it was absolutely necessary to include the names of the community members that made my success on campus possible. In my speech, I hoped that students would know that the community organizers around them are pillars of the multicultural community. I hoped that multicultural community organizers would feel seen and loved,” Blas said.

The ceremony went on to feature a dance performance by the FUSE Dance Company, an a capella performance by the Mantiphondrakes, as well as a performance by Associate Professor John Crespi and Rosbrook. 

This kickoff ceremony led into a week of speeches, performances and workshops, all with the aim of encouraging the Colgate community to get more involved in thinking about the work and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. One of the more significant events that followed the kickoff was a keynote speech from motivational speaker, author and diversity trainer, Eddie Moore. 

Hosted in the Colgate chapel on Thursday, Jan. 27, the keynote address touched on racial injustice, activism and civil rights history. The event, introduced by Rosbrook, began with a speech from Moore and concluded with a sit-down question and answer session between Rosbrook and Moore. 

 “I just want to let you know,” Moore began, “that I’m not here to beat up on white people, I’m not here to cause or find any enemies in the audience, [or] online. I’m not here to be attacking, degrading … I’m here in the spirit of MLK to say, now is our time, especially to the young folks here.”

Moore’s speech was sprinkled with quips about Hamilton, questions directed towards the crowd, and a lively discourse involving important figures in popular culture, particularly American singer, rapper and actor Childish Gambino. Moore also bluntly spoke of issues in the educational sphere related to racial inequality and racial divisions. 

“I go to so many diverse places and they still sit in the cafeteria like it’s 1963 … you’ve gotta remind people, Jim Crow died. He’s gone, it’s alright,” Moore said.

Moore cultivated a personal, familial feeling in the chapel despite the potentially jarring nature of blatantly honest statements like these.

“Consider me a relative from here on out — Uncle Eddie. If I can be a resource as you evolve, as you go on your path, go on your way … I’m still out there and I’m going to be with y’all fighting, fighting, fighting, doing some work. But now is your time, that’s what I really want to talk to you about tonight.”

First-year Grace Dowd attended the event, encouraged by a peer and eager to learn more about King’s legacy. 

“The energy in the room really stood out to me. I have been to other presentations about combating racism and anti-racism. This one was unique in that it was particularly invigorating and exciting in the room,” Dowd said.

Junior Ted Aiken attended the event as an opportunity to educate himself on the topics of MLK week, including anti-racism and white supremacy. Aiken enjoyed Moore’s blunt and energetic presentation style. 

“My favorite part of … Moore’s talk was when he addressed President [Brian] Casey and other administrators in attendance directly,” Aiken said. “Asking them questions like, ‘Is Colgate diverse?’ He didn’t ask them necessarily expecting a response but to make a point that these are the questions we need to be asking.”

After Moore’s 40-minute speech, the educator sat with Rosbrook to address student questions. After discussing questions on topics ranging from racial injustice to navigating the racial environment of Colgate as an international student, Moore left the audience with one evergreen message: “Don’t give up you, be you, make sure you come and leave here you.”