Realizing the dream
Students and faculty participate in a previous year’s Martin Luther King march.
For the first time in the university’s history, Grand Valley State University will cancel all classes held on Martin Luther King Day to promote participation in King’s plan for peace and justice.
Dwight Hamilton, assistant vice president for affirmative action at GVSU, said that in previous years when the holiday was observed a majority of the students were unable to attend the multiple events hosted by the university due to class being in session.
“Because classes are adjourned, this enables all students to celebrate the holiday and honor Dr. Martin’s legacy,” Hamilton said. “We now have the opportunity to expand the program and integrate greater community involvement with Grand Rapids and Allendale.”
With ongoing events from Jan. 20-26, GVSU’s Office of Multicultural Affairs has partnered with the Inclusion and Equity Division, the Student Senate and WGVU Public Media to create the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Week of 2013. Associate Director of OMA Bobby Springer and Dr. Kathleen Underwood, associate professor of history and chair of women & gender studies, lead the GVSU MLK Executive Committee of nearly 25 members. In order to make sure this week of commemoration runs smoothly, the committee consistently works to develop, facilitate and schedule events for this week year-round.
The events kick off Jan. 20 at 3 p.m. with Saving Green and Eating Fresh. The program will be hosted by Alpha Kappa Alpha, Theta Chi Omega and Nu Theta at the Richard M. DeVos Center Loosemore Auditorium. These organizations will show students how to make their budget work for them and serve healthy refreshments.
On the official MLK Day, Jan. 21, concurrent social justice activities will be held in the Russel H. Kirkhof Center starting at 10 a.m. with another session starting at 2 p.m.
Also on Monday, Poverty Simulation, which requires an RSVP, will be held in the Pere Marquette Room and help participants understand what living in a low-income family would be like. Upcycling, which also requires an RSVP, includes Crafting for Our Community with activities such as turning pillowcases into dresses and weaving plastic bags into sleeping mats. This program will be in rooms 2215/2216, and all items will be donated to local shelters or health care organizations.
GVSU will also host an all-day film series which will screen documentaries and films showcasing King’s work in the Kirkhof Center Theatre and room 1104. Straight Talk with panelists will discuss King’s legacy in lives today and will be held at 2 p.m. in Kirkhof 2270. During Marathon Reading in Kirkhof 2266, campus members will read from King’s writings and the works he inspired.
The university will also offer its traditional silent march beginning at 1 p.m. at the Zumberge Library. The march will end at the Kirkhof Center with this year’s guest speaker Glenda Hatchett of the TV show “Judge Hatchett”. Nationally recognized, Hatchett speaks on saving generations of today and the future.
In addition, GVSU will host Majora Carter, urban revitalizationist and host of the radio series “The Promised Land,” to give a keynote presentation at 5 p.m. in the Grand River Room of the Kirkhof Center on Jan. 24.
“We have a different twist with Majora Carter,” Springer said.
“It’s more about food justice because King thought about individuals in all aspects. We thought this would be a great area to really focus in on. Majora is making it possible for different urban locations to get the same access to green space as any other location.”
Lastly, Jan. 26 consists of the official Day of Service coordinated by the Community Service Learning Center. Volunteers will meet in Kirkhof Center and then travel to sites in West Michigan to serve. This event requires an RSVP.
Students across GVSU are heavily impacted by class cancellation on MLK Day. Junior Allicia Rabideau is in favor of the change.
“I think it is good we do not have school because we are able to offer these events,” Rabideau said. “It would be great to be able to go to these events, and look forward to the social justice events. I think it’s really cool that the events don’t just stop at MLK but bring in the current issues as well.”
MLK Day is a day at GVSU with no classes, but it is not a day to sleep in and ignore the significance. Springer said he hopes students will enjoy that for the first time in history there will be no classes, but in return, that students realize this is not to have a day off, but a day that is on. Everyone, including the public, is invited to participate in these free activities that are hosted by the university.
To review the events or find out more information, visit www.gvsu.edu/mlk.