Day of DialogueGAMBIER, Ohio (January 9, 2012)
The Kenyon College Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Dialogue will honor the spirit of the movement King inspired by considering the challenges that remain in 2013.
The Day of Dialogue moves to Rosse Hall this year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 21. The event title is "Yesterday's Dream Today: Contemporary Civil Rights through the Works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr." Discussion will focus on the issues and problems that King might approach today—set in the context of why the nation continues to honor the King legacy.
"King had a vision of our nation as a community, and we want to think of community as King envisioned it—a place where everyone can reach his or her full potential regardless of race, ethnic heritage, socio-economic status, sexuality, or gender," said event planning committee member Ivonne García, assistant professor of English. "Many of us believe that is what King represents. This is a day to celebrate that."
Each class period on that day will be shortened by 10 minutes to create time for the community to participate. President S. Georgia Nugent will open the event with welcoming remarks at 3:10 p.m. The Chamber Singers will perform traditional spirituals at 3:20 p.m., followed by a faculty panel and discussion at 3:30 p.m. The Gospel Choir will perform at 5:00 p.m. on the march, leading the crowd from Rosse Hall to Peirce Hall while singing We Shall Overcome. The dialogue will continue over dinner at the Peirce Leach Dining Room, at 5:30 p.m. Students involved with Project Open Voices, a group interested in distributing student narratives that illustrate Kenyon experiences with diversity, will take part in the dinner discussion.
The faculty panel, which will engage student comments and questions from the audience, will be moderated by Assistant Professor of English Jené Schoenfeld. Panel members include Professor of Political Science Fred Baumann; Professor of English Ted Mason; Professor of Spanish Clara Román-Odio; and Anna Sun, assistant professor of sociology and Asian studies.
King was born on January 15, 1929, became a Baptist minister, and, in the 1950s, emerged as a leader in the nascent civil rights movement, urging progress through civil disobedience. King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968, at thirty-nine. The U.S. holiday in his name was created in 1986.
"He wanted change," García said. "He wasn't afraid to do that. Change doesn't have to mean changing the whole world. You can change your world. We can work here at Kenyon to make it more welcoming, to make the students more understanding of each other, to have greater cultural literacy and respect for each other."
A goal for planning committee member Yutan Getzler, associate professor of chemistry, is to fight a cultural tendency to soften or romanticize King's work, making it seem less controversial or less disruptive than it was. "This guy really caused a lot of trouble," Getzler said, "and we need to remember that." King's advocacy of non-violence in the pursuit of equal rights and justice was not, as some people now believe, a passive approach, Getzler said. Organized civil disobedience came at a high price, and in King's case the ultimate price.
In its fifth year, the Day of Dialogue is the fruit of a years-long Kenyon tradition of marking the King holiday with various activities.