K Student Builds Black History Month Seminar

Black History Month Seminar Creator Destiny Hutcherson
Destiny Hutcherson ’21 teamed up with peers from Albion and Hope colleges to build a series of Black History Month events titled “Reality is Wrong, Dreams are Real.

A Kalamazoo College student has developed a partnership with peers at Albion and Hope colleges to create a four-part series of Black History Month events which will run February 26 through March 1 titled “Reality is Wrong, Dreams are Real.”

Destiny Hutcherson ’21 said she feels it’s important for Black students to have a space where they can meet other Black students and talk about experiences that are unique to them, especially when there is a lack of Black representation on campus that Black students could turn to in times of need; representatives who understand their culture and customs, and most importantly, could relate to their struggles not only in college, but also the world. These events—planned with some guidance from the Kalamazoo College Council of Student Representatives, the Office of Student Activities and the Intercultural Center—could provide that, especially with other Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA) schools participating.

“What you want to do is turn to people who look like you when you need advice,” Hutcherson said. “I was fortunate to have a Black advisor as a first-year student, but a lot of students don’t get that. I wanted to make something that could close that gap in the pandemic and help students find someone they can relate to.”

The conference’s logo, done by Stanton Greenstone ’21, features a flower growing from concrete alongside the moon and a star. The flower symbolizes students growing even in tough situations. The moon and star represent faithfulness in Ghanaian art. The “Reality is Wrong, Dreams are Real” title refers to Tupac Shakur, who once talked about being a flower who grew in difficult circumstances. It also touches on something timely, Hutcherson said.

“Tupac rapped in the 90s, but this is something that’s even more apparent now,” she said. “The reality we have is rough and it’s not inclusive to Blackness sometimes. Even though that’s the reality, in some ways, it’s wrong because I feel like one day dreams will overtake that. I don’t want this just to be a sad event, looking at the realities of what’s happening to Black people. I want it to be about what Black people want to do with their lives. A dream can be as simple as graduating college for a Black person and that dream is reality. My dream was creating something that cultivates Black space.”

The Black History Month events are open to current K students and include:

Art Therapy with Kwame Akoto-Bamfo at 4:30 p.m. Friday. Akoto-Bamfo, a globally-famous Ghanaian sculptor, is known for projects such as an outdoor sculpture dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Transatlantic slave trade, on display at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which opened in 2018 in Montgomery, Alabama. Students participating in this session have received art materials provided through the mail.

Game Night at 8 p.m. Saturday. The night will begin with an ice breaker and mocktail hour for Black students to network. That independent time, Hutcherson said, will be especially important to Black students as most events also are open to allies. The rest of the night will involve games and possibly a showing of Coming to America, the 1988 comedy film starring Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall.

Seminar sessions that begin at 11 a.m. Sunday. The day will feature 10 to 11 breakout sessions, including topics that deal with being an ally, and identity-based discussions that deal with being Afro-Latinx, queer and Black, and more. A Black doctor will also speak about navigating the health care system as a Black person.

Balance, Beats and Breaks at 6 p.m. Monday. Students will enjoy mindfulness practices with raptivist Aisha Fukushima, a performance lecturer, social justice strategist and singer/songwriter.

“I know that we’re at a predominantly white institution, but my goal is that we have a good number of Black students registered for it,” Hutcherson said. “I’ve centered my focuses on identity-based events at K, and I believe this is another event that is designed for filling in a gap that Black students have not had in the past year, especially seniors.”

“In the future, in a perfect world, I would also like to open this to Black alumni so it’s not only events for students, but a larger affair with other thinkers who will come in and mentor Black students,” she added. “It would be about healing, education and networking, so that it’s tailored to be a conference on giving Black students hope emotionally, and sending them on a path to generational wealth. I’d like this event to be as joyous as an HBCU extravaganza.”

Keynote Highlights K’s Virtual Plans for Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Martin Luther King Jr. Day keynote speaker Dr. D-L Stewart
Dr. D-L Stewart ’95 will deliver a virtual keynote Monday, January 18, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

A renowned professor, author, scholar, activist, TED Talk speaker and Kalamazoo College alumnus will help K celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a virtual event at 11 a.m. on Monday, January 18.

Colorado State University School of Education Professor Dr. D-L Stewart ’95 focuses on empowering and imagining futures that sustain and cultivate the learning, growth and success of minoritized groups in postsecondary education. His work is motivated by an ethic of love grounded in justice and informed by the lived experiences of individuals with multiple marginalities, along with the effects of systems of oppression. Stewart will deliver a keynote titled “I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to be Free.”

The address will share a title with a song performed by Nina Simone in the 1970s, a time when any gains from the Civil Rights Movement, led by many including King, were threatened with a white flight to the suburbs, protests against school desegregation in northern urban cities and the beginnings of mass incarceration. Stewart will compare those times to our current times and note many similarities.

The event, which is open to the public, will include an opening address and introduction from Asia Smith ’21. Access the event at the scheduled time here through Zoom. The passcode is MLKDay. For more information and any accommodations, email Director of Intercultural Student Life Natalia T. Carvalho-Pinto at ncarvalh@kzoo.edu.

Author’s Keynote Highlights Martin Luther King Jr. Day Events

Barbara Ransby Keynote on Martin Luther King
Historian, writer and longtime political activist Barbara Ransby will deliver the keynote address at Kalamazoo College’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day Convocation.

A historian, writer and longtime political activist will headline the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Convocation with a keynote speech at 11 a.m. Monday in Dalton Theater. The event is open to the public.

Barbara Ransby has published dozens of articles and essays in popular and scholarly venues, and is most notably the author of the award-winning books Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision, and Eslanda: The Large and Unconventional Life of Mrs. Paul Robeson. Her newest book, Making All Black Lives Matter: Reimagining Freedom in the Twenty-First Century will be available for purchase during the event, and a book-signing will take place immediately after the program.

Ransby is a distinguished professor in the departments of African American studies, gender and women’s studies, and history at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she directs the campus-wide Social Justice Initiative, a project that promotes connections between academics and community organizers doing work on social justice.

Richard Brown ’21 will provide an opening address and introduction at the event.

The public is also invited Monday to a wreath-laying ceremony at MLK Park, 507 N. Rose St., at 4:45 p.m. A community celebration from 5 to 6:30 p.m. will follow at the Kalamazoo State Theatre, 404 S. Burdick St. The program at the State will feature local speakers and performers such as Rootead and Kandace “DC” Lavender. Artwork from the top 15 finalists of the Social Justice Art Competition will also be on display. Transportation from campus is available to those who RSVP by Jan. 16 to ncarvalh@kzoo.edu.

Anyone needing assistance or accommodations for these events should contact Director of Intercultural Student Life Natalia Carvalho-Pinto at ncarvalh@kzoo.edu by Jan. 16.

Martin Luther King Jr. Community Reflection

The annual Martin Luther King Jr. Community Reflection is an opportunity for faculty, staff, students and the public to speak from their own experiences on this year’s theme, “Injustice for one is injustice for all.”

The event is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at Stetson Chapel and will be presented by the College’s Greer-Sanford Student-Scholars.

Students Should ‘Feel Empowered’ By Alumna’s Art

Students Observe Julie Mehretu's Artwork with fari nzinga
Kalamazoo College students taking the first-year seminar titled “In Defense of Ourselves: African American Women Artists” have a chance to see artwork from Julie Mehretu ’92 alongside pieces from artists such as Kehinde Wiley, Elizabeth Catlett, Thornton Dial, Barkley Hendricks, Kori Newkirk, Norman Lewis and Howardena Pindell in the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts exhibit, Black Refractions: Highlights from the Studio Museum in Harlem, on display through Dec. 8.

A first-year seminar this term is giving 14 Kalamazoo College students a chance to see critically acclaimed art created by a professional painter who once attended K herself.

Organized by the Studio Museum in Harlem and the American Federation of Arts, Black Refractions: Highlights from the Studio Museum in Harlem, is an exhibit on display at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts (KIA) through Dec. 8; it features two works by Julie Mehretu ’92 among 78 other artists of African descent. The exhibit began traveling in 2018 in celebration of the Studio Museum’s 50th anniversary. It opened in San Francisco at the Museum of the African Diaspora, and Kalamazoo is the exhibition’s only stop in the Midwest.

For the public, the exhibit creates dialogue regarding the artists, many of whom are inspired by current events, while expanding a viewer’s understanding of modern art and addressing themes that affect Kalamazoo and the nation such as poverty, identity, power, status and social justice.

Visiting Assistant Professor of Art fari nzinga takes students in her first-year seminar to the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts to see an exhibit that includes work by alumna Julie Mehretu ’92.

For the K students taking the seminar titled “In Defense of Ourselves: African American Women Artists” specifically, it’s a chance to witness original work from an alumna whose art is usually seen in bigger cities, alongside pieces from artists such as Kehinde Wiley, Elizabeth Catlett, Thornton Dial, Barkley Hendricks, Kori Newkirk, Norman Lewis and Howardena Pindell — household names among art historians and curators, as well as Black artists.

The class may be offered again in future terms, although the fall course was designed specifically for Black Refractions, giving students a distinct chance to observe Mehretu’s work firsthand.

“Oh, they love her work,” said fari nzinga, who teaches the course, of how the students have reacted to seeing Mehretu’s creations. nzinga is a visiting assistant professor of art at K and post-doctoral curatorial fellow at the KIA.

“When I first saw one of Mehretu’s paintings, I was intimidated by its size and scale, as well as its complexity,” she said. “It’s abstract and I felt like I didn’t have the tools to engage with it and interpret it for myself. But actually, my students have not responded in the same way I did all those years ago. They see connections and stories and aren’t afraid to trust their own instincts. I love to see it.”

nzinga earned her master’s degree and doctorate in cultural anthropology from Duke University. She was based in New Orleans for nearly a decade and conducted dissertation research on Black-led arts organizations and community building after Hurricane Katrina. She also worked for two years at the New Orleans Museum of Art, where she facilitated institutional transformation around issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. In April 2018, she independently produced and curated an exhibition, “The Rent Is Too Damn High,” in celebration of the New Orleans tri-centennial.

nzinga came to Kalamazoo when she got to know KIA Executive Director Belinda Tate and it was clear a joint position between K and KIA would be available. The hope is that students taking this course will see what Mehretu has accomplished and feel that they too can one day change the world.

“I feel like they are teaching me so much,” nzinga said. “Because the students are in their first semester of college, K hasn’t really crystallized for them yet, so I’m excited to see how they make meaning of the institution and make it their own as they grow and develop. I think seeing Mehretu’s work right up front at the beginning of their time here will be something that guides them, just an example of what they can do here if they want to and that’s powerful. I hope they feel empowered.”

Celebrated Poet Visits, Inspires K

When an award-winning poet speaks on campus, you can bet Kalamazoo College students are eagerly listening and learning.

Marcelo Hernandez Castillo
Poet Marcelo Hernandez Castillo reads to Kalamazoo College students from his book, Cenzontle, at the Intercultural Center.

Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, a celebrated writer known for his early life experiences as an undocumented immigrant, was warmly welcomed last week to K. He conversed with students in classes taught by Assistant English Professor Shanna Salinas (Reading the World: Identities) and Assistant Sociology Professor Francisco Villegas (Race and Racism). He also provided a poetry reading in front of about 80 students in the Intercultural Center at Hicks Student Center.

“Intersections of language and home are on the hearts and minds of so many of our students,” said Assistant English Professor Oliver Baez Bendorf, who helped facilitate Castillo’s visit. “It’s important for them to know that they can do anything, and to see different models for that. Their stories matter and they can survive the telling of them and even make it beautiful. Reading is always a portal through which they can transport and grow. I know that Marcelo was likewise touched by the energy of our community and our students, their readiness to engage with his writing, their intellectual and creative curiosity, and all that they so impressively juggle.”

Castillo’s poetry collection, titled Cenzontle, addresses the fears he once faced of being deported. Castillo came to the United States with his family from Zacatecas, Mexico, at age 5 and was an early beneficiary of President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Sacramento State University and was the first undocumented student to graduate from the Helen Zell Writers Program at the University of Michigan.

For Cenzontle, the poet received the New Writers Award this year from the Great Lakes Colleges Association — a 13-member consortium of higher-education institutions in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania — which includes K. The award, founded in 1970, honors writers who are in the early stages of their literary career. Along with Cenzontle, Castillo has a 2018 chapbook titled Dulce. His memoir, Children of the Land, is scheduled for release next year.

Beyond poetry, Castillo is an essayist, translator and immigration advocate and a founding member of the Undocupoets campaign, which successfully eliminated citizenship requirements from all major first-poetry-book prizes in the country. His work has been featured in The New York Times, People Magazine, Buzzfeed and New England Review, and he teaches in the Low-Res MFA program at Ashland University.

With focused eyes and open minds, Salinas’ students listened intently to Castillo and asked a range of questions: poem- and content-specific, craft and poetic technique, themes and broader open-ended considerations. “I appreciated how generous Marcelo was in sharing his personal experiences and talking about his writing process,” Salinas said. “He was invested in their questions and insights, and I could tell the students felt that they were being seen, heard and respected.”

Opportunities to hear from renowned, in-the-field experts are celebrated occasions at K regardless of their field of expertise, although hearing from Castillo was a notable treat for students, faculty and staff, especially the aspiring writers among them.

“So many things about reading and writing happen in solitude,” Baez Bendorf said. “When you’ve read words on a page and then the human behind them arrives in your midst, it can be almost magical. I saw that happen with Marcelo’s visit. It’s thrilling to have a visitor, and even better when they’ve come with stories and generosity. Our students extended great hospitality to Marcelo and welcomed him into their spaces.”

Social Justice, International Sports Expert to Visit K

A world-renowned expert on social justice and its role in international sports will visit Stetson Chapel at Kalamazoo College on Monday, Nov. 4.

Social Justice and International Sports Expert Richard Lapchick
Social justice and international sports expert Richard Lapchick will visit Kalamazoo College on Monday, Nov. 4.

Richard Lapchick, the endowed chair and director of the DeVos Sports Business Management Program at the University of Central Florida and the president of the Institute for Sport and Social Justice (ISSJ), will conduct a conversation about sports, justice and activism with Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership Director Lisa Brock. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. before the event, “Just Sport: A Conversation on Sports, Justice and Activism with Dr. Richard Lapchick,” begins at 7:30 p.m.

Lapchick founded the Center for the Study of Sport in Society in 1984 at Northeastern University. He served as its director for 17 years and is now its director emeritus. The center has attracted national attention to its efforts ensuring the education of athletes from junior high school through the professional ranks. The center’s Project TEAMWORK was called “America’s most successful violence prevention program” by public opinion analyst Lou Harris. The project won the Peter F. Drucker Foundation Award as the nation’s most innovative nonprofit program and was named by the Clinton Administration as a model for violence prevention.

Lapchick also helped form the National Consortium for Academics and Sport, which is now the ISSJ, in 1985. Nationally, ISSJ athletes have worked with nearly 19.9 million young people in the school-outreach and community-service program, which focused on teaching youths how to improve race relations, develop conflict-resolution skills, prevent gender violence and avoid drug and alcohol abuse.  They collectively donated more than 22 million hours of service while member colleges donated more than $300 million in tuition assistance.

Lapchick has authored 17 books, received 10 honorary doctorates, and is a regular columnist for ESPN.com and The Sports Business Journal. He has written more than 600 articles, has given more than 2,900 public speeches, and has appeared several times on Good Morning America, Face the Nation, The Today Show, ABC World News, NBC Nightly News, The CBS Evening News, CNN and ESPN. From the sports boycott against apartheid to exposing the connection between sports and human trafficking, he has spoken before Congress, and at the United Nations, the European Parliament and the Vatican.

For more information on the event, please call 269.337.7398 or visit the Arcus Center on Facebook.

Panel to Address School Discipline, Mass Incarceration Reform

Child with Backpack Graphic for Mass Incarceration Reform
Kalamazoo College will host a panel discussion to examine the impact of mass incarceration on communities from 4:15 to 7 p.m. Thursday, March 7.

Kalamazoo College will host a panel discussion to examine the impact of mass incarceration on communities, explore how to reduce incarceration rates and increase successful re-entry through a collaborative call to action. This event is free and open to the public.

WHEN: 4:15-7 p.m., Thursday, March 7

WHERE: Hornets Suite, Kalamazoo College Field House, 1600 W. Michigan Ave., Kalamazoo

WHO: Sponsored by the community and global health concentration at K, this event aims to foster dialogue among people directly and indirectly affected by mass incarceration, including community members, non-profit and youth-serving organizations, the faith-based community, law enforcement, mental health professionals, K-12 educators, and college and university faculty and students.

WHAT: The event will examine the link between student disciplinary history and future incarceration, and how access to mentorships, counseling and other services can be more effective than traditional methods of discipline in fostering student success. It will include a presentation of the documentary Pathways to Prison and thoughtful discussion with panel participants, including the documentary’s producer. Participants will consider how to support youth, schools and local law enforcement in the building of safe communities that affirm the dignity of every individual.

Panelists include:

  • Dr. Charles Bell (Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Sciences, Illinois State University)
  • Bill Kubota, (Producer, Pathways to Prison)
  • Cindy Green (Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Services, Kalamazoo Public Schools)
  • Reuquiyah Saunders (Director of Special Education, Kalamazoo Public Schools)
  • Mitch Hawkins (Principal, Northeastern Elementary)
  • Joseph Thomas (Field Service/Juvenile Drug Treatment Court Manager, 9th Circuit Court Family Division)
  • Honorable Tiffany A. Ankley (8th District Court)
  • Michael Wilder (Returning Citizen)
  • Michael Monroe (Returning Citizen)

Make Plans for Martin Luther King Jr. Day Events

Kalamazoo College students, faculty and staff will take part in events Friday, Jan. 18, and Monday, Jan. 21, to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The events are open to the public unless otherwise noted.

Friday

11 a.m., Community Reflection, Stetson Chapel

Tasleem Jamila Martin Luther King Jr Day
Tasleem Jamila, an international poet, vocalist, author, speaker, educator and holistic health advocate, will be a guest performer at the Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation Monday, Jan. 21, at Dalton Theatre.

The annual Martin Luther King Jr. Community Reflection is an opportunity for Kalamazoo College students, faculty and staff to speak from their experiences and hearts on this year’s theme, “Kneeling for Justice, Then and Now.”

Monday

10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Black History 101 Mobile Museum Exhibit, Light Fine Arts lobby

This exhibit is an award-winning collection of more than 7,000 original artifacts of Black memorabilia dating from the trans-Atlantic slave trade era to hip-hop culture. The Black History 101 Mobile Museum has traveled to 32 states, visiting more than 300 institutions including colleges, K-12 schools, corporations, conferences, libraries, museums, festivals, religious institutions and cultural events. Community members are invited to stop by throughout the day to view the exhibit.

10:50 a.m., Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation at Dalton Theatre, Light Fine Arts

Speaker Khalid El-Hakim will deliver the keynote, “The Truth Hurts: Black History, Honesty and Healing the Racial Divide.”

Khalid El-Hakim is the founder and curator of the Black History 101 Mobile Museum. He has received national and international attention for his innovative work of exhibiting Black history outside of traditional museum spaces. Most recently he was named one of the 100 Men of Distinction for 2017 by the highly respected business magazine, Black Enterprise. He holds a master’s degree in socio-cultural studies of education from Western Michigan University and is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Dylan Milton ’21 will be the student speaker. Tasleem Jamila, an international poet, vocalist, author, speaker, educator and holistic health advocate, will be a guest performer. She is the CEO of My Soul Speaks, a company that creates interactive workshops, presentations and performances across the world. Her work focuses on social action, community healing and revitalization through art and expression.

12:30 to 2 p.m., Coffee and Conversations with Khalid El-Hakim, Black History 101 Museum Curator, in the Light Fine Arts lobby

Khalid will be available at the museum exhibit for questions and one-on-one dialogue about the Black History 101 Museum and the exhibit at K. Tea, coffee and lemonade will be available.

12:45 to 3 p.m., MLK Day Brunch and Workshop, “Writing Your Own Freedom Song” with Tasleem Jamila, Intercultural Center at Hicks Student Center

Brunch will be served at 12:45 p.m. followed by a 70- to 80-minute workshop. Attendance is limited to 40 students. RSVP to Natalia T. Carvalho-Pinto at ncarvalh@kzoo.edu to attend. This event is open only to students from Kalamazoo College, Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo Valley Community College.

3:40 p.m., annual Commemorative Walk

Kalamazoo College participants will ride buses from Red Square to MLK Park in Kalamazoo. After the MLK Park event, participants may take buses back to K. One bus will take participants to a celebration at the State Theatre, after which a 6 p.m. bus will return participants to K.

5 to 6 p.m., Community Celebration, State Theatre, 404 S. Burdick, Kalamazoo

Immediately after the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Walk, Bronson Healthcare and Ascension Borgess Hospital invite the public to a community celebration. For accommodations and further information, contact Mikka Dryer at 269.341.8323 or Sister Sue McCrery at 269.226.5937.

7 p.m., Movie Night and Discussion, Intercultural Center at Hicks Student Center.

Kalamazoo College students, faculty and staff are welcome to watch the movie “Selma” with popcorn and pizza provided.