"A Dream Today"GAMBIER, Ohio (January 12, 2009)
The dream of Martin Luther King Jr. and the vision of Barack Obama will frame the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Dialogue on January 19 at the Brandi Recital Hall.
The event begins at 2:15 p.m. and blends faculty and student discussion panels and the arts, including a dramatic reading of King's watershed, 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech. The dialogue is geared to a frank examination of race relations in the context of the Obama inaugural celebration.
"Are we post-race in the age of Obama? We find that a lot of students and a lot of faculty, and minorities specifically, are saying, 'Absolutely not,' because they're feeling kind of a backlash," said Ivonne García, assistant professor of English. "It's become even more salient to talk about race now. It's not something that is done, not something that is over as a lot of people are imagining."
To deepen the relevance of the discussion and spur attendance, the organizing committee is relying on faculty cooperation, said Jené Schoenfeld, assistant professor of English and a member of the planning committee. "We are hoping that faculty members will encourage students to participate, either by making it part of their curriculum or by not penalizing students or by offering extra credit," she said.
The student panel includes Analise Gonzalez '11 of Dallas; Jennifer Morrison '09 of Ann Arbor, Michigan; Johanna Ralston '09 of Quincy, Illinois; and Lovey Walker '09 of Kaneohe, Hawaii. The faculty panel includes Irene Lopez, assistant professor of psychology; Ted Mason, professor of English; Associate Provost Ric Sheffield, and Schoenfeld.
García is encouraging all College employees to attend at least part of the program and hopes the Day of Dialogue becomes an annual event. Schoenfeld already considers it a success, noting, "It will mean something to us because it happens. This matters to us."
The arts elements, including performances by the Step Team and Gospel Choir, suggest the breadth of the community and help open the door for participation, García said. "We wanted culture. We wanted politics. We wanted faculty research. We wanted Kenyon life," she added. "We wanted to include all the aspects that make Kenyon part of this national conversation."
Martine Kei Green, visiting instructor of drama, has arranged the "Dream" speech into sections that will be read, in part, by individual students who will also form a sort of chorus for some portions. "I actually found it disturbing that, when I polled classes, I found that a lot of people have not read or heard the speech in its entirety," she said. "There are a lot of things in this speech that really ring true with what is about to happen in our country."
The students who will read the speech include Will Dagger '10 of Glen Ellyn, Illinois; Shelley Fort '11 of Kearney, Nebraska; Brian Hepp '09 of Cincinnati, Ohio; Elisabeth Hofmann '10 of New York City; Tila Neguse '09 of Memphis, Tennessee; and Leah Rogers '09 of Woodbridge, New Jersey.
Students Jamal Jordan '12 of Southfield, Michigan, as Malcolm X, and Joseph Valentine-White '11 of Baltimore, Maryland, as King, will stage an excerpt from the play The Meeting, an imagined conversation between the men, by Jeff Stetson.
The afternoon event follows the Knox County Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Breakfast, at 9:00 a.m. in Gund Commons. The keynote speaker at the breakfast is Derrick Alridge, director and professor in the Institute for African American Studies at the University of Georgia.
The breakfast is hosted in alternate years by Kenyon and Mount Vernon Nazarene University and includes community awards and scholarship presentations. The breakfast is free and those who wish to attend should contact the Rev. Terri Hubbard of Mount Vernon at 740-397-5702.
Chris Kennerly, associate dean of students and director of Multicultural Affairs, has helped organize both events. "I believe it's important that we celebrate the life and legacy of such a courageous and unselfish man, a man who fought tirelessly to ensure basic civil rights and human rights for all people," he said.
Here is a schedule for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Dialogue at Brandi Recital Hall on January 19:
2:15 p.m. - Opening with President S. Georgia Nugent
2:30-3:45 p.m. - Dramatic reading of King's "I Have a Dream" speech and student-led panel and group discussion on race relations.
3:45-4:15 p.m. - Arts interlude, including dramatic reading of an excerpt from The Meeting and a performance by the Step Team.
4:15 p.m.-5:15 p.m. - Faculty panel addressing the question "Are We Post-race in the Age of Obama?" with an open discussion.
5:15 p.m.-6 p.m. - Reception
6:00-7:00 p.m. - Closing with the Gospel Choir