Martin Luther King Jr. would have turned 87 last Friday, and while he may no longer be here, his legacy will be celebrated on Whitman College’s campus through a march, keynote speaker, and service day this coming week.
Celebrations will begin Monday evening with a march from Reid Campus Center to downtown Walla Walla, where the Walla Walla University choir will perform. After the march, a coffeehouse featuring slam poetry will take place back in the campus center. Diversity consultant Verna Myers will speak in Cordner Hall at 7pm on Thursday, and a day of service will be held on Saturday the 23rd.
The march will begin at 4pm in the Reid Campus Center ballroom, led by Chief Diversity Officer Kazi Joshua and Black Student Union co-President Cherokee Washington. It will both honor Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement and call attention to the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Because so many young adults are aware of what happened in the civil rights movement with MLK and Malcolm X…I feel like we are taking that, plus what we’ve learned at liberal arts and other schools, into our own hands and creating things like the Black Lives Matter movement,” said Washington.
Plans for the week were made by a committee of students and staff members from the Intercultural Center, Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, Student Engagement Center, and Student Activities Office.
The committee selected Verna Myers as this year’s keynote speaker after being impressed by her TED talk on confronting biases. Myers is a Harvard-trained lawyer and runs a consulting agency which serves large organizations such as corporations, law firms, and government entities.
“[Her TED talk] was something that really rang with a lot of people in the group. She talks about confronting your biases to work through the issues of racism and oppression that our society’s facing,” said Assistant Director of the Intercultural Center Maggi Banderas.
The final event of the week will be a service day held on Saturday, January 23rd. Volunteers will assist 14 separate service projects throughout Walla Walla.
This will be the first year a day of service is not held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day itself. Because the holiday occurs the day before classes start, attendance for the day of service was typically only around 30 students, while other days of service organized by the college had upwards of 100 volunteers. By shifting the event to the weekend, Community Service Coordinator Abby Juhasz hopes to significantly increase attendance.
Many of the 14 volunteer opportunities will take place with organizations Whitman College has partnered with in the past. However, none will involve projects concerning racial justice or civil rights.
“The way we have it set up currently we are being responsive to the needs of our community partners right now, what they feel are the most pressing things that need to be done,” said Juhasz.