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First in-person Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Luncheon since COVID recognizes ‘Bodies on the Line’

The Westminster College Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion hosted the first in-person Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Luncheon since COVID-19 on Friday, Jan. 20. The event identified and honored “individuals, groups and organizations committed to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion on our campus and surrounding communities,” according to Tamara Stevenson, vice president of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and chief diversity officer.

Unsung Hero awards are presented to the individuals and groups who demonstrate  “exceptional courage, conviction and capacity in their field of work or service that has made a positive and productive difference in the lives of individuals and communities, as modeled by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” according to Stevenson.

Meghan Wall, associate professor of dance and a 2022 Unsung Hero award recipient, spoke of her personal journey and reflection on this year’s theme for MLK celebrations, “Bodies on the Line.”

The theme relates movement of the body from an arts perspective as a form of mental health, wellness and healing, according to Westminster’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration webpage

Wall said she is a dancer and movement artist.

“That’s how the world makes sense to me,” Wall said. “It’s in my body.” 

Wall invited the audience to “tune” into their bodies during the Unity Luncheon and find movement within themselves.

“Maybe it’s your belly digesting. Maybe it’s the muscles. Maybe it’s a sickening feeling in your stomach [about] why a white lady is up here about to talk about Martin Luther King Jr. [Day],” Wall said. 

Sitting with a feeling and being in tune with that feeling in the body is important, according to Wall, because “putting our bodies on the line is the only way we can move forward.”

People should put their “bodies on the line” for social justice and pursue an anti-racist journey, according to Wall. 

“I realized I needed to have hard conversations with bodies like mine to question ourselves, take accountability, name the devastating oppression of white body supremacy and move beyond [saying ‘I don’t see color’], altruism, white saviorism and best intentions,” Wall said.

Michael Santarosa, registrar, stands in front of the crowd at the Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Luncheon in Jewett Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, Jan. 20. The event identified and honored “individuals, groups and organizations committed to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion on our campus and surrounding communities,” according to Tamara Stevenson, vice president of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and chief diversity officer. Photo courtesy of Quinn Winter. Image description: Over a dozen people sit around tables in an atrium as registrar Michael Santarosa stands at a podium.

Steven Doctorman, a chemical and biomolecular engineering major and anthropology minor at John Hopkins University, said he attended the Unity Luncheon because he enjoys participating in the local community and meeting other students. 

“I strongly believe in creating community-based dialogue about inequalities and the recognition of ignored individuals,” Doctorman said in an interview messaging exchange. 

Doctorman said he enjoyed the discussions centered around quotes from significant figures.

Doctorman said, “I overall found the program to meaningfully engage with the community and recognize ongoing efforts to combat insidious instances of structural inequalities.” 

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Rylee Brown(she/hers) is a senior Communication major with a minor in Spanish. She is a reporter and the Business and Advertising Manger for the Forum. In her free time she also works as a social media manager for local business, loves to spend time with her siblings, playing board games with her fiancee, and traveling whenever she can.

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