ABBY STONE | Reporter
Racial justice conversations began at Lindenwood University in 1970, and since have turned to conversations of celebration for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“[Martin Luther King Jr. day] is an important part of history, not just for the African-American community but for all races as far as the idea behind Martin Luther King is that everybody will get along with each other,” University Archivist Paul Huffman said.
According to Huffman, Lindenwood University became fully racially integrated in 1969-1970.
Huffman said the university had little problems with this transition, with the exception of a sit-in at Butler Library in November 1970.
The Black Student Union, then called the Association of Black Collegians, spearheaded it, according to Huffman.
Earlier that year in May, the organization wrote a list of demands, including statistics proving that Lindenwood was making an effort to recruit students of color, a,was making n effort to recruit black foreign students, was working on a black studies curriculum and for this curriculum to be taught by black teachers.
This sit-in only lasted one day and, according to Huffman, a majority of their demands were met by the university.
The first time that Lindenwood held events celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day was in 2006 when English professor Dr. Sue Tretter put together a program. In fact, 2018 is just the second year that the campus has been closed in memoriam of this national holiday.
The Black Student Union, advised by Cathy Hart, coordinator for Student and Academic Support, took over the celebrations in 2009 and has since been hosting MLK events for the past eight years.
Hart said that this holiday should be seen as an American holiday for all people, and that the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day gives the community an opportunity to open the discussion of diversity.
“It gives people in the community a place to go and to reflect on the cultural aspects of the community and to interact with one another about how are we living the dream of Dr. King, which was a united humanity,” Hart said.
The celebration had been on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but due to low student attendance and the campus being closed, the observance has been turned into a week of events being held all over campus.
This year, the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. day will be put on by the Diversity, Equit, and Inclusion Task Force.
This task force, under the Student Life and Diversity office, has not only put together a celebration and memorial for Dr. King, but it also is holding two Diversity Dialogues on Tuesday and Thursday of next week, which are open forum discussions based on various topics like immigration, education and the social justice system. The bigger purpose of the event is to open up more conversation on campus.
Dr. Shane Williamson, Associate Vice President of Student Life and Diversity and Dean of Students, has been instrumental in the planning of these events.
Williamson said the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force exists as a resource for all students.
African-American student Alyssa Hawkins said MLK day embodies the sacrificial and enduring love Dr. King believed in, but communities are still needing to have the same conversations and are still fighting for the same things Martin Luther King Jr. was fighting for.
“There was never an end to the civil rights movement,” she said. “[MLK] just set the blueprint for racial reconciliation, but I don’t really think it ever ended.”
Williamson said that students should be educated on diversity and on Martin Luther King Jr.’s contributions, not only to the civil rights movement and African Americans, but to every race.
“He impacted thousands and thousands of people,” Williamson said. “Now his legacy still lives and still continues so it’s important for us to learn from our history so we’re not making those same mistakes again.”
Martin Luther King Jr Day Celebrations in the St. Louis area
1. Monday, Jan. 15
9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Christ Church Cathedral
2. Monday, Jan. 15
Danforth University Center
Featuring Keynote speaker address, Presentation of the Rosa L. Parks Award, Remarks from Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton, and Presentations by student speakers
Lindenwood University Celebrations
1. Tuesday, Jan. 16
Diversity Dialogue: Social Justice, Social Order, and Civil Rights
3:30 – 4:30 p.m.
Dunseth Auditorium, Harmon Hall
Featuring Dr. Melissa Qualls, Dr. Andrea Boyles, and Dr. Jeanie Thies
2. Wednesday, Jan. 17
MLK Remembrance Service
Join us as The Rev. Karen Denise Anderson, pastor of The Ward Chapel AME Church in Florissant, MO, leads us in a service of Word and music in remembrance of Dr. MLK Jr.
3. Thursday, Jan. 18
Diversity Dialogue: The Student Perspective – Diversity at Lindenwood University
3:30 – 4:30 p.m.
Dunseth Auditorium, Harmon Hall
Featuring current students who will share their experiences at Lindenwood University from a diverse perspective.