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Meeting addresses King Day, diversity

Peter Ninneman | Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Should the name of Martin Luther King, Jr. even be included in the title of a diversity meeting? This was a question posed by Chandra Johnson, director of Cross-Cultural Ministry and associate director of Campus Ministry, to her fellow members of the committee that plans events celebrating Martin Luther King Day.

“I wanted to see how the black people would react,” Johnson said.

Johnson worried that non-minority students would shy away from attending the town hall meeting in Coleman Morse Tuesday night partly designed to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, celebrated Jan. 16.

But the mix of students present at “A Call for Your Voice: The Responsibility of Every Man and Woman” included about as many white students as minorities, even with King playing a central role in the discussion.

Anthony Burrow, a research associate in the psychology department, and Reanna Ursin, a visiting fellow in the Africana Studies department, facilitated the meeting. For the most part, however, the participants controlled the flow of discussion.

Among the issues discussed were how the concept of the Notre Dame family sacrifices diversified individual development of students, King as a model of Catholic social teaching, how every race has a stake in diversity and in what ways blacks should work towards progress.

Several students said they thought blacks were growing more and more agitated. This was evident in one student’s accusation earlier in the discussion that the reason Notre Dame granted a day off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day might have been “just a coincidence,” noting that the University did nothing to celebrate the holiday on its official day.

The consensus among those who participated was that anger is a useful catalyst for progress, but is not very sustainable.

Johnson said she believes blacks need to gather with a positive attitude and learn to love each other.

“I’ve stopped blaming white people,” Johnson said.

She also said blacks should not wait for another leader like King, because “America will take him out.”

The meeting was sponsored by Campus Ministry and Multicultural Student Programs and Services.