This past weekend, the Goshen College community once again gathered to celebrate and honor the life and legacy of the Martin Luther King Jr.. This year marked the 35th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at Goshen College.
The first event to take place was the Martin Luther King Jr. Coffeehouse, which was held the evening of Sunday, Jan. 20 in Sauder Concert Hall, a change from prior years.
Dr. LaKendra Hardware, chair for the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration committee and associate director of student life for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, explained the reasoning behind the coffeehouse being moved not only to a new location, but also from its usual Monday morning slot to Sunday evening.
“The pace was very short and you only had a limited amount of time,” Hardware said. The new format allowed for a longer and more formal event. This year’s event included a collaboration with the English department, featuring the S.A. Yoder Lecture Series guest speaker for the first time.
Award winning poet Tiana Clark served as the keynote speaker of the evening. Clark is the author of two books of poems, “Equilibrium” and “I Can’t Talk About The Trees Without The Blood.”
The coffeehouse consisted of six performances from Goshen College students. Ari Benjamin, a senior physical education major and psychology minor, returned to the stage after performing at the event last year. During this Sunday’s performance he read an original piece entitled “Modern Day Warrior.”
In the piece, Benjamin said, “I just feel defeated when I see injustice being done against my brothers and sisters because of the color of their skin.”
After all the students had performed, Clark was welcomed to the stage.
Clark spoke of Dr. King’s role in the Civil Rights Movement and how it shaped her as a person and as a poet. She quoted a speech that King wrote in 1968, reciting the words, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
“For me, poetry has always been a means for survival,” Clark said. She then proceeded to read several original, published poems that centered around themes such as race.
The coffeehouse concluded with a panel discussion featuring Clark, and three student performers—Alia Byrd, Terra Kincy and Fabiola Jasso. The panel was moderated by Ann Hostetler, professor of English.
The commemoration of King continued the following morning on Monday, Jan. 21 in the Church-Chapel, where a special convocation was held. This convocation was entitled “King: The Man, The Motive, The Movement.”
Dr. Regina Shands Stoltzfus, associate professor of peace, justice, and conflict studies, opened the convocation by reciting the poem “A dead man’s dream,” by Carl Wendell Hines, Jr..
Kincy, a sophomore, and Clinton Stroble, a senior, also spoke at the event. Kincy, a graphic design major from Memphis, Tennessee, spoke of her experience of growing up in the town where Martin Luther King Jr. took his last breath.
Kincy spoke about the Holy Week Uprising, which was a wave of civil disturbance that swept the United States following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. on Apr. 4,1968.
“When riots began to dominate the city, Memphis literally went up into flames,” she said. “Change didn’t begin to happen in black neighborhoods in Memphis until around 2010.”
In his portion of the convocation, Stroble discussed the continuing legacy of MLK, and actions moving forward.
“I am not here to attack you,” Stroble said. “I am here to encourage and to present ideas that may or may not share the same power in other spaces.”
Referencing the same quote Clark mentioned in her speech, Stroble said, “We must not go a second further before we consider (Kings) message and how it translates into our daily lives. In the beginning of this convocation, we sat in silence. I want you to remember what it felt like. Empty, alone, maybe even scary. If you sit long enough, it’s as if the silence gets louder, and your ears start to ring and you feel the world closing in on you”
“Our silence is dangerous,” said Stroble. “Without using our ability to speak, justice cannot be found.”
Although society at large has come a long way since 1968, Hardware reminded the convocation audience that “some progress is not ultimate progress.”
“Justice is indivisible,” Hardware said. “It is for all people, not just for one oppressed people or group.”
Later in the afternoon, there were two breakout sessions held in the Church-Chapel, one serving as a processing space, and one focusing on the role of the individual in the movement. The King events concluded with a vigil Monday evening.