Colgate Celebrates MLK’s Lasting Legacy

Kerry Houston

After months of extensive planning by various groups throughout campus, Colgate presented a week of events celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The week’s workshops and presentations, co-sponsored by the Africana, Latin American, Asian American and Native American (ALANA) Cultural Center, Dean of the College, Office of Equity and Diversity, Department of Environmental Studies, Jewish

Student Union, Africana and Latin American Studies Program and The Colgate Speaking Union, generated positive responses from both students and faculty. MLK Week 2013 commenced at noon on Monday, January 21 with a student-led opening ceremony at the Colgate Memorial Chapel. Vice President and Dean of the College Suzy Nelson delivered the opening remarks to a crowd of over 200 and outlined the significance of MLK week to the whole of the Colgate community. Outreach Program Coordinator at ALANA Cultural Center Sarah Ellis then introduced speaker Dr. Norm Dann from the National Abolition Hall of Fame. The Colgate Thirteen performed two songs, and seven members of Poetically Minded presented a dramatic reading of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Senior Andrea Finley concluded the program with a powerful keynote address urging all students to step outside their comfort zones. Colgate’s faculty played a key role as many professors organized workshops and delivered lectures throughout the week. On Tuesday morning, ALANA hosted 52 third graders from Hamilton Central School for a presentation about the life of Dr. King, a project developed by ALANA Student Ambassador junior James Speight. One of the many highlights of the week was the Van Jones lecture on Thursday evening. As a former advisor to President Obama and a regular contributor to CNN, Van Jones spoke candidly about King’s legacy and the changes he feels the United States still needs to achieve as it progresses into the 21st Century. Van Jones emphasized that Dr. King did not have all the answers, but instead moved from setback to setback throughout his career. “It wasn’t the quantity of his successes, but the quality of his effort … Dr. King is a founder of the America that (we) live in. He pulled off something in his failure and humiliation and achieved something … he helped with a moral re-founding of this republic,” Jones said. “I think that this can be a bubble for many people … Colgate is not really a microcosm of the real world. We hope that things like MLK week and other events that come up where we celebrate culture and heritage and internationalism, that they challenge people, as Andrea Finley said ‘to step out of their comfort zone’ and to really engage in things that are beyond them … We made this a week-long celebration so that many people can benefit from it and hopefully take something from it … You can’t have diversity unless you have everyone … If all you learn is tolerance while you’re here, you’re not getting an inclusive Colgate experience. You have to learn acceptance,” Associate Dean of Multicultural Affairs and Director of ALANA Cultural Center Thomas Cruz-Soto said. At the MLK brunch on Friday morning, several Colgate students were honored for their commitment to serving the larger community. Seniors Che Hatter, Christina Liu, Griffin O’Shea, Courtney Jackson, Maggie Dunne, Andrea Finley, Rose Quispe, Chris Mendoza, Gabby Cortes, Kat Kollitides and Imani Shabazz; juniors April Bailey, Michelle Van Veen and James Speight; and sophomores Dezhi Yu, Jimmy Juarez, Arlene Robles and Cindy Gaete were all honored with awards recognizing their service in the form of cultural presentations, diversity training, outreach and other milestone achievements in his life. MLK week ended on Friday with the COVE’s (Center for Outreach Volunteerism and Education) “MLK Afternoon of Service,” in which approximately 100 students volunteered at various charities. “This whole year for me has been about perspective and reflection and I feel that this week and the programs that we planned really embody that idea. I think the whole week … has also been about just getting to know a part of Colgate you may not have known before, and I think that’s a really exciting part about all of this,” Ellis said.

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