Goshen College’s annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day was no let-down. Held throughout the day on Monday, the festivities began with a spoken word coffeehouse followed by singing and conversation. Over the course of the day it became apparent that Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy has not been lost on Goshen College students, faculty and staff nor the larger Goshen community.
Voices ‘n Harmony began the 10 a.m. convocation with singing. Odelet Nance, the director of the Multicultural Affairs Office and a member of the choir, commented on how we can celebrate King through our experiences with the arts. Whether it is praising in song, remembering in poetry, or sharing the message by sermon, art is a great venue for expressing and appreciating the diversity, equality and justice found in King’s work. The call and response song led by Voices ‘n Harmony was particularly powerful; Nance noted how the song’s style echoed Dr. King’s vision of love and call for integrated communities.
Following Voices ‘n Harmony, Brenda Cardenas shared a variety of poems that reflected how struggles for equality are still present today. Cardenas, a poet from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, explained that the arts are connected to social justice movements in that activists serve as inspirations to many poets, and without activists there would be no art. Likewise, the arts sustain activists and without poetry, what would keep the activists going? She argued that art and social justice are interdependent, and their connectedness allows both fields to explore new horizons and push existing boundaries. Cardenas ended by reminding us how blessed we are to have mixed cultural heritages. “We are one life,” she writes, “passing through the prism of others.”
Next, Tony Brown, a baritone singer, professional counselor and teacher, explored the idea of living soulfully, rather than becoming mechanized by society. Brown uses music to bridge the cultural and racial divides around the world, from Ireland to Ethiopia. He notes that modernism came with a price. In a world of technology and speed, he says it’s as if we have less time to be human. Brown suggested that the “soul [is] giving way to efficiency.” To curb this, it is important to follow Dr. King’s message to advance the cause of peace and justice. By doing so, and by remembering Dr. King’s legacy through the arts, we are able to begin soul-making lives united by purpose across generations, religions and race.