MLK Day Celebrated: All Hands on Deck

By Marquise Griffin

Kalamazoo College Gospel Choir performs at the Community Reflection. Photo provided by Kalamazoo College.

The past weekend has featured a flurry of events in honor of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. Events included the weekly community reflection, holiday convocation, and a presentation from a civil rights activist.

First was the community reflection on Friday January 17. The theme of the reflection was “Redeem the Dream: All Hands on Deck.” Each of the speakers who shared reflections pertaining to the theme spoke on their interpretation of quote by Dr. King: “When we look at modern man, we have to face the fact that modern man suffers from a kind of poverty of the spirit, which stands in glaring contrast with a scientific and technological abundance. We’ve learned to fly the air as birds, we’ve learned to swim the seas as fish, yet we haven’t learned to walk the Earth as brothers and sisters. Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

Associate Dean of Students Karen Joshua-Wathel provided the opening remarks and introduced each of the six speakers: Senior Erran Briggs, Assistant Director for Academic Advising & Institutional Support Lesley Clinard, Sophomore Justin Danzy, Junior Mele Makalo, Associate Professor of Physics Arthur Cole, and Senior Kendal Dean.

Each of the speakers spoke from personal experience, providing a variety of perspectives.

Briggs summarized his thoughts as, “If you want to attain something as abstract as a dream you need to have abstract tools.”

Clinard spoke of her experiences as a mother of a small child who’s just beginning to understand the realities of racism. The common theme within each speaker’s reflection was the urgent tone relating to getting “all hands on deck.”

This theme was reiterated on Monday morning at the holiday convocation. Reverend Jevon Caldwell Gross, alumnus of the class of 2004 and a member of the Board of Trustees, was the main speaker of the event. Reverend Gross is the pastor of Hamilton Memorial United Church in Hamilton, MI and delivered a sermon calling for people to unify across barriers in order to achieve the common objective of achieving Dr. King’s dream.

Other participants included Dean Joshua-Wathel, Orator Ora Stokes, Senior Raven Fisher, and musical selections provided by the Kalamazoo College Gospel Choir.

Kaylah Simmons, a participant of the choir, stated her favorite part of the convocation was Reverend Gross’ sermon and his call not to let the attainment of success prevent further progress.

Monday evening in Dalton Theater Native American activist, economist, and writer Winona Laduke gave a presentation concerning how economic inequality affected native communities and reiterated the earlier themes of everyone unifying for a common purpose to better life.

Sophomore Dylan Polcyn commented that Laduke’s speech was very enlightening and contained engaging content. “In light of today being MLK day, she definitely put a new spin on the work that needs to be done in civil rights as well as for the environment.”