2011 MLK Breakfast

Uploaded by gvsu on 17.01.2011

For those of you I may not know,
my name is Jeanne Arnold
and I'm the Vice President for Inclusion
and Equity here at Grand Valley,
and we are very happy to be able
to come together this year
for our second annual MLK -
Martin Luther King Jr. -
Commemorative Breakfast.
Coming together as a university,
simulcasting to Pew Campus,
and preparing a recording to be sent
to the regional campuses that they can use
when they have students on their campuses,
so we are together
as one university this morning,
commemorating a man
who spent his life overcoming barriers -
fighting barriers - to inequality,
and encouraging all of us to act in service
to others, and to create what he called a
beloved community.
So we have come together as a university,
this is the first year we have had an MLK
Executive Planning Committee chaired by -
we're so fortunate
to have had it chaired this year
by Kathleen Underwood and Bobby Springer,
and let me just mention that Bobby is so sorry
that he can't be here with us this morning
but he's had some unexpected surgery,
and he will join us periodically
through the week as he is able
and as he has instruction from his doctor.
But we thank Kathleen and Bobby
for their leadership,
and for the huge committee
that has spent countless hours - faculty,
staff and students -
sometimes weekly coming together
to plan an expanded and enhanced series
of programs that go from today
until next Monday, so this is a first
for Grand Valley: to not limit ourselves
to the Monday holiday
but to take this all the way through the week,
and Kathleen Underwood will tell you a little
bit more about those programs when she closes
out for us today.
We continue also to look at how best
to commemorate this holiday, and we do have,
as I mentioned last year at this time,
we have a committee
that is examining the question of whether
or not the university should be opened
or closed, or suspend business
in a different way.
We know that's a question that comes
to us every year
and we are taking a serious look at that,
doing some research on it, and hope by the end
of this academic year
to have some recommendations for all of us
to consider and to have a senior management
team consider.
But this year we strengthen the academic focus
- we've got internal presenters,
external presenters -
and we really envision a meaningful time
to come together and reflect on a man who -
this is the twenty-fifth year
that we have had a national holiday
recognizing Martin Luther King,
so in this year of that twenty-fifth
anniversary and our own fiftieth anniversary,
we have really gone all-out
to create opportunities and venues for all
of us to reflect on the importance
of this occasion and the life of a man
who only lived to age thirty-nine,
but would have been eighty-two years old this
year, and we are still being moved
by his vision and his message.
I think that's pretty powerful.
So this morning we thank you again
for joining us, we will now have a student
reflection by Kirsten Zeiter
and a faculty reflection by Ayana Weekley,
and then Kathleen will come up and close it
out for us, so we encourage you to take a look
at the papers on your table and join us
for the variety of powerful, academic,
and thoughtful experiences
that we will have here as a community
between now and next Monday.
Thank you very much.
Good morning everyone.
So as a student who was involved
with the Executive Planning Committee,
we're so proud that we had many events this
week aside from just the breakfast.
Obviously the breakfast is great,
but we had a lot of things
that we've been doing,
and the one I'd like to talk to you most
about is a day of service
that we had on Saturday.
So forty-five students gathered
to kick off the week to honor Dr. King
and Ella Baker, who're both leaders
in the civil rights movement,
and we traveled to Comprenew Environmental,
downtown Grand Rapids,
and volunteered our time to help a nonprofit.
Now Comprenew basically takes any electronic
waste, so computers, cell phones, microwaves -
anything that has a plug, really -
and disassembles it
so that it can be recycled, refurbished,
and resold and it stays completely
out of the environment free of waste.
So not only is this good
for environmental justice,
but the money that they earn
from selling old parts
or refurbishing computers then goes
to help foster education for youth worldwide
about the importance of environmental justice.
So it's a really great cause,
and while we were there we disassembled
over 230 computers
that otherwise would have polluted
the environment.
So many might be wondering, "Okay,
that's great, you disassembled computers,
but how is this really relevant
for commemorating Dr. King?"
And I know it's hard to see at first glance,
but if you think about it for a little while,
it begins to become clear.
Civic engagement was paramount for Dr. King,
and he believed that in order
to really see what kind of change you needed
to work for in the community,
you had to work hands-on in order
to understand what had to be done.
So he put it best when he said,
"An individual has not started living
until he can rise above the narrow confines
of his individualistic concerns
to the broader concerns of all humanity,"
and at Comprenew Saturday I really felt
that we were doing exactly that.
We were provided with the knowledge and skills
to know that there was so much waste
in this facility that had to be taken care of,
and that there has to be something done
about what we're doing to the environment,
and what we can do to help foster education
about these types of things.
And now, as college students,
we're all aware that it's really hard
to do service.
Obviously we have homework, classes, clubs,
hopefully some extra reading
in there sometimes and we need to get jobs
and things like this, where are we supposed
to get time to do service?
But the brilliant thing that I've learned
about those who are involved and those
who are brilliant leaders is
that they're not mystical people.
They're ordinary people like Dr. King
and Ella Baker who did extraordinary things,
and that was a really important part
of Ella Baker's philosophy -
who we also commemorated with the day
of service - and she believed
that each person had the power to be a leader
in their community.
That you didn't have to be the biggest leader
and in charge of a million people in order
to make a difference,
and that was the important lesson
that I think we took away from the day
of service, the forty-five of us
who were there, and we had a waiting list
so there were many more students
who wanted to be involved.
And so all it takes is that small commitment
to really make a big difference,
and I think if we can continue to remember
that and to reflect on that,
then the legacy of these two great leaders
will continue to live on in the work we do.
Thanks. Good morning everyone.
I am Dr. Ayana Weekley.
I am a new faculty member in Women
and Gender Studies here at Grand Valley.
This is my second semester,
so I was very honored and excited
when the committee asked me
to share my personal reflections
about what Martin Luther King means to me
and what this day means to me.
So again, what does Martin Luther King Jr.
mean to me, and by extension,
what does this day where we pause
to reflect upon his life and work mean to me?
These are the questions
that we should all be reflecting upon
as we meet to listen, discuss,
and learn from the many speakers
and activities planned for us this week.
I'm going to briefly share with you some
of my own thoughts,
and hope that in the coming days, weeks,
months, and semesters and years
that we are all here at Grand Valley
that we can all share in a vision
of what King's legacy means both for us
and the world while continuing
to strive toward realizing that dream
and its many facets.
When I reflect upon the life and legacy
of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,
many contradictory ideas come to mind,
including he was a visionary, a revolutionary,
but also perhaps an accomodationist.
He was a radical, and yet he was moderate.
Perhaps he was sexist,
yet in his later career he espoused a much
broader critique of social injustices,
including poverty, war, and imperialism,
which makes it not unreasonable
to believe this would have lead
to a political stance
that also included a critique of gender,
if his life had not been cut short.
We must ask ourselves,
"What do we do with this complicated history,
political work, and activism
of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?
How do we contextualize it, learn from it,
and draw upon it to fuel the much needed work
that must continue?"
As a black feminist who teaches about systemic
and mutually constituting forms
of oppression including but surely not limited
to or exclusive to: racism, sexism,
heterosexism, homophobia, poverty,
and the many ways
in which they express themselves
in our daily lives and institutions,
including marriage, welfare, health care,
HIV/AIDS, prisons, schools, and labor,
and of course the list could go on.
The work of not only Martin Luther King,
but also Ella Baker, Jo Ann Robinson,
Marian Wright, Rosa Parks,
and the many people, women and men, who fought
and died for our rights are at the forefront
of my thoughts, beliefs,
and political practices.
Yet it is still often very difficult to put
into words what they mean to me
in my daily life.
How do I live and embody the values
of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,
when we have come so far
in the last fifty years,
yet still have so far to go?
When discrimination
and hatred is increasingly nuanced and hidden,
yet unrelenting?
When on any given day,
injustices make us angry, paralyze us,
make us cynics, and ultimately blind us
to what it is we are working for?
It's a quote from Martin Luther King's final
speech on April 3, 1968, in Memphis to a room
of striking sanitation workers
that expresses what I feel is at the heart
of the work and legacies of the civil rights,
black power, and feminist movements
of the '60s and '70s, and should remain
at the heart of all social justice work.
It's very simple, very direct, and very short.
Quote, "We want to be free," end quote.
Freedom from oppression,
and freedom to be our full selves
in every sense of the word.
Freedom from poverty,
and the freedom that having the right
to a living wage would provide.
Freedom from ignorance,
and the freedom to claim our educations.
Freedom from hatred, and the freedom to love.
Freedom from ___,
and I will let you fill in the blank.
Freedom to ___, and again I will let you fill
in the blank.
So what does this mean to me?
It means that I will remind myself
to learn from his work.
I will be brave and follow the leaders before
me in all of my own contradictions,
shortcomings, and limited solutions,
but I will strive for and aspire
to that ultimate goal of freedom.
This day reminds me that I want to be free,
and serves as an annual call
to recommit myself to working toward
that goal alongside those who are both similar
to me and those who I share very little
in common with other
than that they also want to be free.
I hope you will do the same.
Thank you.
Thank you, Kirsten,
and thank you very much, Ayana.
Boy, what a couple of acts to follow.
It's not going to be easy.
I think both of our remembrances
from a student and from a faculty member
really exemplify this year's them
of Shake the World,
and that's something that's a been a central
focus for us over the past several months
as we've put together this program,
and I'd just like you to keep it in mind
as we continue through the week.
I'm Kathleen Underwood, Director of Women
and Gender Studies program and a professor
in the History department,
and have served this
over the past several months
with Bobby Springer, who is Associate Director
of the Office of Multicultural Affairs
to plan this week's events.
I'd first like to thank Cisco Corporation
for its generous support of this breakfast
and give special thanks to Gary Austin
and to George Powell.
Their underwriting makes this fantastic
breakfast possible,
and I think we should all thank them for that.
You know events like this take many hands,
and this year has been a true collaboration
among students, staff, and faculty.
Student Senate has been involved throughout,
and Bobby and I would
like to thank the members
of the Planning Committee who, as Jeanne said,
have met regularly since last July
to design the various events
to commemorate the life, work,
and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King,
Jr. Some are in this room,
and some are down at the Pew Campus,
and I'd like each to stand or wave
to be recognized.
And as you can see, we have two members
of the next generation of shakers
who will shake the world for us.
I know one of them,
and I know she definitely will.
I'd also like to single out Linda Rettig
of the Office of Multicultural Affairs
who has worked to keep us all on task
which is, if anybody's worked with me,
you know that's not an easy thing to do.
So we thank her, Linda?
Events like these also take financial support,
and for that we thank Dr. Arnold
and the Division of Inclusion and Equity,
Connie Dang and the Office
of Multicultural Affairs, and Student Senate.
So you have on your tables sort of brief -
on white sheets of paper - outlines of what's
to come, and I just want
to do a quick reminder of those.
Today at noon we meet in front
of Zumberge Library for the Silent March.
Our route this year is a little bit different,
and we end up back in Kirkhof Center,
in fact in this room,
where we will see a brief segment of a video
by Judy Richardson who was a founding member
of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating
Committee, helped write and edit Eyes
on the Prize, and has now done a documentary
about a massacre of students at Orangeburg,
South Carolina, in 1968,
and we will look at parts of that
and she'll talk about film making
as a tool for education.
Then on Wednesday at 5 p.m.,
Dr. Michael Eric Dyson will be on campus,
and he will be speaking
at the Louis Armstrong Theatre
with simulcast here in Grand River Room
and also at Loosemore Auditorium,
so if you have downtown classes there's an
opportunity to see him.
The Shake the World Unity Choir will perform
before Dr. Dyson's talk,
and if anybody is still interested
in participating in that choir,
you can be in touch with me after this event
or you can - Steve Lipnicki doesn't know this
- but you can get in touch with Steve Lipnicki
if you're downtown and then we'll try
to get everybody together.
Then we have three more events
that will take place,
all of them in Kirkhof Center.
On Thursday, Dr. Steven Rosales,
a faculty member in History,
will discuss his work on the G.I.
Bill of Rights and Mexican Americans.
On Friday, Student Senate is sponsoring an
event called "The Art of Reflection: Listen,
Watch, Dance" at 4 p.m.
And concluding our events a week from today,
also in Kirkhof,
Professor Michelle Miller-Adams
of GVSU's Political Science Department will
discuss the Kalamazoo Promise
and how best we can provide equality
in education for all students.
Okay, so Dr. King provided so many words
to guide us, and you've had important quotes
from all of the speakers today,
and I'm going to give you one of mine,
and it seems particularly relevant today.
And it is quote, "It is no longer a choice
between violence and nonviolence.
It is a choice between nonviolence
and nonexistence."
Thank you all for coming this morning,
and I look forward to seeing you at several
or some of the events over the next week.