November 26, 2018
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About the homepage photo: Fifty years ago, Kenyon students joined Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Selma march to Montgomery, Ala., and took this photo of King.
On Monday, Jan. 19, Kenyon will alter its class schedule to allow students, faculty and staff to attend events in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. But the celebration, “Days of Dialogue: A Single Garment of Destiny,” has moved beyond a single day to encompass almost a full week of activities.
This year’s programming focuses on public health, with the theme “As Long as Diseases are Rampant . . .” chosen from a 1961 King commencement address. The theme was chosen in response to research that has revealed significant racial disparities in public health outcomes, particularly in Ohio, where studies show that African-Americans experience the highest infant mortality rates.
The opening symposium includes remarks from President Sean Decatur, performances by the Chamber Singers and Cornerstone Choir, and a keynote address by Arthur James, a pediatric physician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and a driving force in Ohio’s statewide initiative to reduce infant mortality. Following the address, James will join Cynthia Colen, a sociology professor at the Ohio State University whose work focuses on racial and ethnic inequalities in health, and Jason Reece, director of research at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, for a question-and-answer session.
“In past years, the panels or programming have been much more historical,” said Yutan Getzler, associate professor of chemistry and chair of this year’s committee on Martin Luther King Jr. Day programming. “That is really critical with any commemoration of a historical figure or their work. But what are the struggles today? What are the things that are relevant in our state locally? As a scientist, I am most comfortable wrestling with ideas that are data driven, such as the work our panelists will discuss.”
Some Martin Luther King Jr. Day events start the week prior to the official holiday. On Friday, Jan. 16, at 7 p.m., the indie hit movie Dear White People will be shown in the Community Foundation Theater in the Gund Gallery. Saturday, Jan. 17, is a service day during which students can sign up to volunteer for various projects.
“We want to emphasize Martin Luther King Day as a day on, not a day off,” Getzler said.
Events on Tuesday, Jan. 20, include a Common Hour panel discussion about advocating the civil rights movement in text and renderings. On Wednesday, discrimination advisors will host an open-mic session at the Horn Gallery, where people are invited to speak in response to two prompts from King’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and “Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application.” Thursday’s Common Hour session will be a follow-up to the open mic.
“We know that sometimes things are said and discussed at these open-mic events that can be really emotionally fraught,” said Erika Cuevas ’16, a political science major from Stockton, Calif., who served on the programming committee. “We’re just hoping that the follow-up discussion on Thursday will be a chance to explore what was said at the open mic a little further.”
Getzler said the open-mic session and corresponding Common Hour discussion in the past have been particularly powerful, leading to tangible changes such as the internship stipends instituted last year.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Day events conclude with a panel discussion presented by the Center for the Study of American Democracy about King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
“One of the things that was pretty amazing about the work that King was able to do was how he was able to inspire people to work on difficult problems that take a long time to change,” Getzler said. “That work is still being done and still needs to be done and is everyone’s responsibility.”
Full schedule of events: