South Puget Sound Community College doesn’t let the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday slip by as a day off from school. On the contrary, more than an entire week of commemoration is dedicated to it.
Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration 2013 was filled with guest speakers, reflections and stories from people who grew up during the civil rights movement, student-led workshops, luncheons, film screenings, and a talent show.
The week kicked off on Jan. 14 with guest speaker Dean Spade. An associate professor at Seattle University School of Law, Spade gave a speech titled, “Critical Trans Politics and the Limits of Law.”
On Tuesday, a panel of guests from the civil rights movement came and shared memories, experiences, and hopes for the future.
According to Rebekah Hutson, the ASB senator for diversity and equity, hearing the stories of the guests was extremely powerful.
One of the guests for last year’s commemoration was actually in the crowd when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, said Hutson. Hearing how the crowd reacted and hearing the real-life recollection really puts everything in perspective, said Hutson.
You can’t get the same thing out of a textbook, she said. The feelings someone can convey through a story are just so raw and emotional, where as a textbook is often very dry, she said.
Professor Jose Gutierrez, Jr. presented a workshop focused on bringing to light some of the underrepresented aspects of Dr. King’s journey.
“The holiday portrays Martin Luther King Jr. as ideal, a hero, but in reality, he was just a normal person with incredible idea’s. Professor Gutierrez reminded me of that,” said SPSCC student Jasmine Junger who attended this workshop.
The last two days of the MLK Commemoration 2013 featured a film screening of “The People Speak,” a slam poetry workshop with Daemond Arrindal, and a talent show.
The slam poetry workshop was led by Daemond Arrindal, who selected poems that dealt with hardship and overcoming challenges. According to Arrindal, he wanted to bring home the message that the MLK holiday is about rising above our struggles. He said unity is critical in accomplishing change and making the world a better place.
Like Daemond Arrindal’s workshop, each event had a message or a theme being conveyed about Martin Luther King Jr. and what he stood for, said Hutson.
The overall themes of the 2013 MLK commemoration week were movement, liberation, and knowledge, said Hutson who helped organize the event.
“We like to remind people that Martin Luther King Jr. day is a day on, not a day off,” said Hutson.
Martin Luther King Jr. was all about change and unity, making small changes in your own community that eventually leak out into other corners of the world, said Hutson.
MLK Commemoration Week is about broadening awareness, said Hutson. Today, decades after the civil rights movement, there are still many diversity issues, she said, and not just globally, or in other states, but right here, on the SPSCC campus, she said.
It can be difficult when you walk into a class, and “you’re the only person who looks like you,” said Hutson. Seeing few teachers or faculty of her race can be somewhat disheartening, and can even result in feelings of isolation, she said. Being surrounded by people who feel different from you can really get to you after awhile.
“That’s why Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration week is so great; it reminds people that race is still a problem, and it provides a lot of support to minorities who may feel alone,” she said.
Hutson gave a shout out to the Diversity Center and said that, regardless of whether it’s MLK Commemoration Week or not, the center is always there for people who feel isolated.
According to Hutson, the diversity center is a major factor in what kept her on the right path at SPSCC. To Hutson, it offers a place where she can talk about her issues and feel understood, because she’s with other people who are struggling in the same way. Plus, she said, it is a great way to meet people.
Overall, the message of MLK Commemoration Week speaks of overcoming challenges together in unity, said Hutson. Which is a message that is always relevant, she said.
The Annual Community Service Fair, student-led workshops, and the Students of Color Unity Luncheon were also part of the MLK recognition week.
On MLK Day itself, students were encouraged to volunteer in their community.