By Emily Renteria
As the United States rang in the new year, CSB/SJU clarified to its students that injustice to humanity should not and cannot be left in oblivion. CSB/SJU honored Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through a series of events titled MLK Week 2018: Redeeming the Soul of America.
The events took place on both campuses from Jan. 15-19, so as to provide opportunities for more people to attend at least one event.
“Each year we try to make it relevant to our current situation so community members think deeply and intersectionally about what we’re doing and why,” Brandyn Woodard, Director of Intercultural and International Student Services, said via email.
“[MLK Week] is an opportunity to place his work in the larger context of striving to achieve true freedom, equality and equity that were so elusive during his time and perhaps even to the present moment, and find words of encouragement and strength from him and the movements of which he tirelessly persisted.
Monday, Jan. 15
St. Cloud State University’s Community Anti-Racism Education (C.A.R.E.) Initiative hosted an MLK Breakfast from 8-10 a.m. The event engaged its attendees in a community dialogue.
The highlight of the event was keynote speaker Sheyann Webb Christburg, civil rights activist and acclaimed author. She shared about her involvement with the Civil Rights Movement. Webb credits her engagement in activism to Rev. Dr. King who she met as a child while playing out in the streets of Selma, Alabama and initiated a relationship with her and many of the neighborhood’s children.
King encouraged the then eight-year-old Sheyann to fight for her rights alongside the grown-ups, for her participation was as important as any adult’s. Hence, she joined her counterparts in the Selma to Montgomery March, as eight years old, which earned her the distinction as King’s “Smallest Freedom Fighter”.
There were also faculty-led teach-ins held from 8:55 a.m.-2:30 p.m. on both CSB and SJU. The presentations related to MLK and issues related to his career. CSB president Mary Dana Hinton and SJU president
Michael Hemesath seminar also spoke about the significance and relevance of an inclusive community and the role the institutions play to implement this idea.
Those who attended the presidents’ conversation sat at circular tables and were encouraged to “communicate with each other, even [if they were] shy,” Xiaoyue Zhang, first-year Bennie from China said.
Zhang also shared that this event in particular appealed to her because it seemed more engaging than most events since it gave the participants the opportunity to share their stories with each other and fight towards the solution together.
“I think the most impactful about this event for me is that [it invited me] to be open minded, [which requires] strength,” Zhang said.
But for some students, a dialogue is not enough. “I want the presidents to lead a session on MLK and then I want there to be an event where people are doing something to impact the community,” CSB senior Theng Yeng Xiong said via email.
Tuesday, Jan. 16
The featured keynote speaker of the week, Rev. Bryan Massingale, a professor of theological and social ethics at Fordham University and a Catholic priest, presented his talk,“Redeeming the Soul of America: The Challenge of King’s Vision to the Faith Community,” at Escher Auditorium. This event was also accessible to all community members of St. Joseph.
As noted in CSB/SJU’s Community Newsroom article “Catholic priest to deliver keynote speech for MLK Week activities,” Rev. Massingale is a consultant to many faith-based justice organizations. He served as president of the Catholic Theological Society of America and convener of the Black Catholic Theological Symposium.
“The most impactful one for me was the keynote speaker, because he gave me perspective on how to move the hearts of people and the underlying issues we have in America that shapes racism,” Xiong said.
Wednesday, Jan. 17
A poverty simulation was held in Gorecki 204. The poverty simulation was an interactive experience that sensitized community participants to the realities of poverty.
“[It] is important for me to constantly remind myself of the privilege I have had throughout my life and currently have as I attend CSB.
Thursday, Jan. 18
Poet and spoken word artist Ashlee Haze performed at Brother Willie’s Pub. She offered another perspective and awareness of how King’s work is still ongoing.
Later that night, CSB/SJU assistant professors of theology Laura Taylor and Chris Conway presented “Shaped by Faith: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement.” They explored the intersection
between faith and political action, looking in particular at how King’s faith inspired, sustained and deepened his commitment to racial justice and equality.
Woodard believes that King’s message resonates today, but a lot of work remains.
“There’s much that needs to be done daily… If we are to be the “beloved community,” we must all play a role in making it a reality for everyone every day,” Woodard said.
FEATURE PHOTO COURTESY OF CSB/SJU DIGITAL COMMONS