Taylor hosted Martin Luther King Jr. Day programming amid national racial tension and a pandemic on Jan. 18.
“Classes are suspended but learning continues,” said Maribel Magallanes, interim director of student leadership & cultural programs.
With the racial reckoning of 2020 in mind, the university felt an emphasis of this year's programming was necessary.
“Last year, we witnessed history between the racial tensions that are still prevalent in our country,” Magallanes said. “Next week is MLK Day, a time to remember the importance of being persistent and hopeful for a better future despite the injustices we may face.”
The programming began mid-morning. The day opened with the keynote speaker, Joel Olufowote, executive director of inclusive excellence and international education at Indiana Wesleyan University.
According to his website, Olufowote has steep experience in working in higher education.
Previously working toward justice in Texas and New York, Olufowote had much to offer the Taylor community.
“As an academic with a heart for community- I strive to use my own experiences to help bridge divides and create collaborative partnerships on college campuses and in surrounding communities,” Olufowote writes.
Even amid COVID-19 restrictions, the day was nothing less than powerful.
“One of the big takeaways is that even during a COVID time it’s important that we do our traditions,” said the Rev. Greg Dyson, vice president for intercultural leadership and church relations. “Celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is an important activity and tradition for us. It is good that it is not a requirement so people can decide how they’re able to do that. Some of that tradition was done corporately as we met together.”
The community took away dynamic messages to implement, messages of barrier breaking and intentionality.
These compelling notes were later discussed within small groups of students.
“Dr. Olufowote challenged us to learn from life with Dr. King,” Dyson said. “Specifically not to build walls around our life. He referred to those walls and fences and encouraged us not to quickly take offense. Which in effect will build fences. This is about living with community in mind. And better understanding Dr. King’s message of the beloved community. Really this is about us living out the Lord's prayer on earth as it is in heaven.”
Seven Taylor faculty members led portions of the day's events. These portions included workshops covering the Civil War, reconstruction, hope and the future of American democracy.
30 students actively participated in the programming. “I hope students took away knowledge they did not have before and engaged well with it,” Lauryn Terry, junior and Black Student Union president, said. I also hope they understood that asking questions is okay and being uncomfortable in something is okay.”
The day’s programming concluded in the afternoon with several remarks on how to fight injustice on campus.
This message lives on through the upcoming SCORR Conference and Black History Month events.