The festivities of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. study day began bright and early on Monday with a 7 a.m. prayer breakfast. The meal was well attended, with community members, faculty and staff, and a number of student representatives all present. Voices-n-Harmony, Goshen College’s gospel choir, was also in attendance, and performed a selection of two songs.

After the prayer breakfast, students, community members, faculty and staff performed or watched the annual spoken word coffeehouse, which was hosted this year by Leah Moreno and Jennifer Speight, both seniors. Performers included James Green, Isaac Lederach, Kellyn Yoder, Daniela Zehr, Leah Moreno, Tavo Parral, Nathan Stoess, Tamera Izlar, Tamara Shantz, and Jennifer Speight.

The coffeehouse focused on this year’s theme which was “Christ, Hope, and Survival.”  Students and faculty presented original works, recitations, and selections from the works of eminent writers and poets like Langston Hughes, Audre Lord, Claude McKay, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Lucille Cliffton and others. The coffeehouse was very well attended, with many people standing or sitting on the floor. It was also an opportunity for students to attain chapel or convocation credits.

Quinton Dixie spoke in the morning’s convocation. Dixie is an assistant professor at Indiana University-Purdue University (IPFW) in Fort Wayne, as well as a co-editor, with award-winning author Cornell West, of a collection of essays entitled “The Courage of Hope: From Black Suffering to Human Redemption.” He spoke to listeners about the importance of continuing in the dream and the struggle of Dr. King for basic human rights for people from all walks of life.

Dixie touched especially on the issue of economic injustice and the paths we must take to correct the historical wrongs that have been committed by this nation.

Dixie said, “America has issued a check to African Americans, and that check has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.’” He went on to explain that it is important to make sure that the nation maintains its promises and pays its debts, figuratively and literally speaking.

In addition to Dixie, Manuel Martinez, professor of American and Chicano Literature at The Ohio State University and author of “Day of the Dead” and “Drift,” spoke at the convocation. Martinez stressed the importance of education in escaping the cyclical structures of poverty and discrimination and encouraged people not to become stubborn and hardhearted to their opportunities.

After these two speakers, attendees were invited to a talk-back session with Dixie and a panel of students about the realities of race and racism in today’s society.

Martin Luther King Jr. study day has been a tradition at Goshen College for 18 years. It provides students and faculty with an opportunity to celebrate the legacy of a man who embodied the spirit of compassionate peacemaking, global citizenship, Christ-centeredness and quest for social justice that so characterizes Goshen College’s own desires. Each study day presents students with the opportunity to attain three convocation credits as well as increase their knowledge.