Last month, we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King. Now, in the midst of Black History month, it’s important that we continue to reflect on the experiences of black people—our history and recent events.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”
At the start of the Spring semester, Westminster College held its annual MLK Week of Events. We started the week with a march and a rally that started at Converse Hall and went down 2100 South before returning to Converse.
Before the march, the crowd heard Dr. Eileen Chanza- Torres, Dr. Tamara Stevenson, Karnell Black and Julie Till speak about why that day and the week’s events are important to them. It’s important that we celebrate Dr. King’s legacy because he fought not only for the freedom of black people but also for the freedom of all people.
Over the course of the week, I looked at posters around campus that were part of the “Race Card Project.” One poster stuck out most to me. The picture said, “No one is free when others are oppressed.”
To not feel oppressed is a privilege.
I hoped these pictures were making people pause, reflect and consider any discomfort they may feel.
The MLK events continued with two open mic sessions, which allowed students, faculty and staff to share their diverse array of talents with others. Performers included members of the Westminster Chamber Singers and individual performances—including my sister, Nicole Tyler, who performed poetry.
Having the opportunity for folks to hear me and appreciate what I have to say, as a Black woman, was a great experience.
I felt validated—my voice and my words may have resonated with someone and encouraged them to start having conversations on what it means to be a woman of color in America.
It made me feel as though taking these steps into activism and inclusion have been worth it, though it is not always easy.
On Jan. 19, the chief diversity officer, Dr. Marco Barker, presented at the Bastian Foundation Diversity Lecture Series and the Unsung Hero awards.
Barker presented the Unsung Hero awards to three people who have had an impact in our community: Chanza-Torres, Dr. Mary Jo Hinsdale, and South Salt Lake Mayor Cherrie Wood. Each of these women were being honored for the work they do without requesting thanks—women rock.
The Bastian Foundation Diversity Lecture Series addressed concepts of critical race theory and offered a glimpse into Dr. Barker’s personal journey of navigating the rural South and now academia as a black man.
The week concluded on Jan. 20 with the Unity Luncheon and a day of service.
The Unity Luncheon brought students, faculty and staff together to engage in conversations about what they can do to make Westminster a more diverse and inclusive community.
Given the recent presidential inauguration and rhetoric of this year’s political campaign, it was great for individuals to sit around a table and listen to what one another had to say. Each person also completed a pledge card that holds them personally accountable for making Westminster a better place.
Then there was dedicated day of service, where the Dumke Center hosted youth from South Salt Lake. The Westminster community provided a place for them to learn, experiment with science and engage in play for the day.
As a student and staff member in the office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, I recognize and understand these changes can’t be made overnight. But we must continue to work toward making spaces more inclusive.
I have a front-row seat to this process and it provides me the opportunity to be a part of something larger. Now with MLK behind us, it is time for the next experience.
Dr. King is not the only activist we should remember.
Take the time to learn history not taught in the classroom and attend events happening around campus.
Activism is about speaking the truth like Sojourner, writing like Maya Angelou, fighting like Malcolm X, thinking like Assata Shakur and dreaming like Dr. Martin Luther King.
For more information about the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion office please follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. You may also reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.