Goshen College kicked of the 2020 Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations on Sunday, Jan. 19, with the theme “Unapologetically Just: Rooted in the Way of Jesus.” 

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 motivation in continuing to recognise the work of Martin Luther King Jr. 

“This year was about really calling us to task as a community, as a country, even -- to be just in all situations,” Hardware said. “Sometimes that's making hard choices, being uncomfortable in spaces, but it’s about asking us to step into the world for everyone.”

This year's celebrations included the first ever Justice Acts performances. The night consisted of songs, dance and theatrical performances from students. 

“A seed was planted in January 2019 and tonight is the fruit,” Hardware said as she introduced the event. 

Zachariah Begly, Tobias Garcia, Mandira Panta, Alyssea Pickett, Dali Rodriguez and Nithya Abraham opened the nights performances by reciting King's final speech, “I’ve been to the Mountaintop.”

Justice Acts committee members, Elijah Lora and Cara Wilson, then took to the stage to sing “Rewrite the Stars” from the Greatest Showman. Third committee member Rebecca Choi performed “What the Lord Has Done for Me” in Korean. 

Other acts included a scene from Hamlet, a recital of a self-written poem entitled “Borrowed Hope,” an ASL interpretation of  J. Cole’s “Intro” from his 2014 album, “Forest Hill Drive,” and a dance routine to Michael Jackson's “They Don't Really Care About Us.” 

The night ended with Goshen Panic and Sunni Ollis-Peterson performing “Feeling Good,” before the rest of the acts reemerged onto the stage. The audience broke out into an extended applause and standing ovation. 

The following day, Goshen students, faculty, staff and community members were invited to the special convocation service at the Church-Chapel. Goshen Mayor Jeremy Stutsman was also in attendance. “This is one of the events I look forward to every year,” Stutsman said.

The event began with Begley, a leader of the Black Student Union, performing a self-written speech entitled, “What Does it Mean to be Unapologetically Just?” Keynote speaker Dr. Regina Shands Stoltzfus, associate professor of peace, justice, and conflict studies, then took to the stage. 

Stoltzfus began by explaining “we love a good hero story, and we love a good hero.” She went on to state how, as a society, we mythologize heroes and retell stories as simplistic tales.

Stolzfus used the story of Rosa Parks, who’s refusal to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, resulted in the launch of the civil rights movement and the Montgomery bus boycott. 

Stolzfus stated this to be a “simplistic yet dramatic narrative,” before going on to explain the more detailed version of the story. 

“Rosa McCauley Parks was a well read, conscious, activist person who came from an activist family,” Stoltzfus said. “Her own definition of herself was as a rebellious person.”

Stolzfus explained how Parks action was a key event that led to the boycott, but the success of the movement was due to a combination of events and a collection of people coming together. 

“And this is the genius of movements; they are made of people. There is no lone superstar that single-handedly pulled this campaign off,” Stoltzfus said. “What I love about this long, expanded story is that it epitomizes this year’s theme: unapologetically just. Rooted in the way of Jesus.”

The rest of the day’s events consisted of two simultaneous breakout sessions and a cumulative session. The breakout sessions consisted of groups discussing the terms, diversity, inclusion, discrimination, prejuideince, bias and privilege. The cumulative session brought both of the sessions together to discuss personal goals and action steps. The day concluded with a candlelight vigil held at the church-chapel.