This past weekend, Goshen College celebrated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a variety of events surrounding this year’s theme: “Black Housing and Unsung Sheroes, Champions of Change in Elkhart County.” 

Cyneatha Millsaps, executive director of the center for community engagement and keynote speaker for MLK day, hoped that the weekend sparked meaningful conversations around campus.

“I think we only move if we create spaces for us to have the tough conversations in which we can hear truth and listen and debate even,” Millsaps said. “I often know the things that I say challenge people, it is intentional in that way.”

The three-day celebration began on Saturday evening with a guest lecture and poetry reading by Allison Joseph, a poet who directs the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois. The next morning, Millsaps delivered a sermon on celebrating the “sheroes” in our communities. 

On Monday, Millsaps spoke at convocation on the social engineering behind US housing. Convocation was followed by a workshop for Black students, faculty and staff, and playing of the documentary: “What Happened at Benham West: African American Stories of Community, Displacement and Hope.”

On the theme of unsung “sheroes,” many students and faculty on the GC campus were nominated for their contributions to the Goshen College community and were called to the stage during convocation by Aja Ellington, director of diversity, equity and inclusion, and member of the MLK day committee. 

Mariela Esparza, a fourth-year English major and member of the MLK day committee, was one of the “sheroe” nominees. 

“It was so cool to be on that stage with that many people … I think it just shows that GC … [is] full of great people doing great things,” Esparza said. 

“I think again we just wanted to, within our own community, acknowledge … these people who are doing a lot but aren’t really recognized.”

The theme for this year, “Black Housing and Unsung Sheroes,” was inspired by “Better Homes of South Bend: An American Story of Courage,” a play that was put on by the South Bend Civic Theatre. 

When the committee decided to focus on Black housing, “we started to really sort of see the women that were going unnoticed in all of the work,” Esparza said. This idea led to a focus on unrecognized women creating change in this community. 

According to Millsaps, the response to this year’s celebration was positive and meaningful for her.