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MLK Day sees increase in student enthusiasm

Mandi Stirone | Friday, January 18, 2008

In March 2007, then-Saint Mary’s student body president-elect Kim Hodges shared her dream for the future of the College, while talking about her hopes for the Diverse Students Leadership Conference.

“I have a dream about the way campus should be, how it should look, and how students should be educated. I’m proud to be a Saint Mary’s woman,” she said.

One major thing that is working into Hodges’ vision is the increasing enthusiasm with which the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. is being celebrated this year, she said.

“It’s just amazing to see how things are working into that vision,” Hodges said. “I really feel like God is moving things forward the way that they should be and the College is moving forward in leaps and bounds.”

April 4 marks the 40th anniversary of King’s assassination.

This year, instead of a series of various scattered events held by different groups on campus, these groups will be uniting under the newly-formed Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Steering Committee.

The committee – led by the director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Larisa Olin Ortiz – is comprised of various faculty and staff on campus.

“In the past what we had, our office had a program and campus ministry had the memorial service. This year we’re coordinating all of that,” Ortiz said.

Activities will stretch over Monday, the national holiday, and Tuesday – and involve a variety of faculty, staff, students and student organizations. Included on Monday are a Martin Luther King, Jr. and civil rights movement display to be held at noon in the Student Center Atrium followed later by a Memorial March for Peace.

The display will include give-a-ways, bookmarks and quizzes that are designed “just to create more awareness” and to be interactive, Ortiz said.

The march, which is organized by the Sisters of Nefertiti, will commence from the Student Center Atrium at 6 p.m.

Participants will hold candles and listen to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, to be read by various people, including President Carol Ann Mooney and several students.

The idea for doing the march came from the advisor to the Sisters of Nefertiti, Stephanie Steward-Bridges, who is also on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Steering Committee, Boone said.

Boone has high hopes for the march. She is expecting 20-25 students, faculty and staff to attend, she said.

“I just encourage the student body to come out and see what’s going on and to become involved in the experience,” she said.

Hodges, who is currently a member of the Sisters of Nefertiti and served both as secretary in her freshman year and president her sophomore year, was very supportive of Boone, whom she says is like a little sister to her.

On Tuesday, there will be another Martin Lither King, Jr. and civil rights movement display in the Student Center, followed by “Martin Luther King, Jr.: Past, Present and Future” in the lower level, an Interfaith prayer service in the Student Center Lounge. The event will feature videos, round-table discussions, and a choral reading of his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail.”

The Interfaith Prayer Service for Justice and Peace is not a new event to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebrations on campus, said Regina Wilson, assistant director of Campus Ministry. Wilson is heading up the planning of the prayer service and is assisted by religious studies professor Stacy Davis.

“For a number of years, Campus Ministry has been responsible for coordinating the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Interfaith Service for Justice and Peace which is something that the planning committee very much wanted to continue,” Wilson said.

“Our interfaith prayer service has been and will continue to be an important part of the campus commemoration of Dr. King.”

The prayer service seeks to bring together persons of various faiths and creeds in order to pray together, she said.

“We have felt that, toward the end of his life, Dr. King really grew to see the call to unity, peace and non-violence as a universal call which transcends race, creed or nationality,” she said.

The service, which includes different religions, will have several different prayer leaders this time around.

“This year we are pleased and honored that community representatives from the Baha’i, Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths will be leading prayer and we will have a Buddhist student and Jewish faculty member also leading parts of the service,” she said.

In addition to the various events to be held around campus, certain classes will be studying Martin Luther King, Jr. themed lessons on Monday or Tuesday and will open their doors to the entire campus.

In an e-mail sent out to Saint Mary’s students on, political science professor Marc Belanger announced that six classes would be made available to the student body on those days.

The events and activities are something Hodges expresses pride in.

“Specifically here I am a minority and [Martin Luther King, Jr. Day] being celebrated – I feel very proud about that,” said Hodges, who is black.

Her vision for Saint Mary’s is being expressed vividly in the planning and effort that went into next week’s celebrations, she said.

“Even more so with the dream that I had about the college, knowing that actual events and actual concrete plants are already here I feel like I’ve planted a seed in someone here in the college so that when I leave … it will continue,” she said. “When you plant seeds into individuals and into an institution, it can do nothing but grow and I’m really, really proud of that.”