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College hosts virtual celebration to honor MLK’s legacy

| Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Saint Mary’s hosted a virtual celebration to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday. The event was hosted by the President’s Council on Inclusivity and Multicultural Diversity.

College President Katie Conboy began the ceremony explaining the importance of the holiday.

“This day is observed each year on the third Monday in January as a day on, not a day off,” she said. “Martin Luther King Day is the only federal holiday designated as a National Day of Service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities.”

Conboy also spoke about King’s lasting legacy and its significance today.

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used the power of words and acts of non-violent resistance such as protests, grassroots organizing and civil disobedience to achieve seemingly impossible goals,” she said. “He went on to lead campaigns against poverty and national conflict and international conflict — always maintaining fidelity to his principles that men and women everywhere, regardless of color or creed, are equal members of the human family. We certainly need his spirit today.”

Though the holiday was first observed in 1986, the College recently adopted it as a school celebration three years ago, Conboy said.

Kirk Franklin and an ensemble then performed the Black National Anthem for the virtual audience.

Student body president, senior Giavanna Paradiso reflected on her favorite quotes from King.

“[King said] ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ — I love that quote because it keeps you mindful of the fact that all little injustices add up to big injustices and nothing is too small to confront in the face of equality,” she said. “My other favorite quote is, ‘I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.’ I love that because it’s so true and [King’s] really speaking to the way he manifested his civil disobedience and being peaceful in the manner of protests in such a face of evil and to be able to rise above that, I just find that to be insane.”

Paradiso expressed her gratitude for King, as well as the need to continue his work today.

“I don’t even know if I could do that and the way he managed to turn the other cheek against violence and continue to push forward and make change is so admirable to me, and I’m so thankful that he did,” Paradiso said. “Any inequalities in society are not tolerable, and we need to fight them wherever we continue to see them.”

Executive director of inclusion and equity Dr. Redgina Hill announced the 2021 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drum Major Recipients.

“Throughout the program, we will recognize 12 individuals or groups that were nominated because of their personal and professional commitment to furthering the vision of Dr. King, especially in the areas of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice,” Hill said.

Professors Leslie Wang, Cibele Webb, Kelly Hamilton, Mana Derakhshani, Jamie Wagman, Jessica Coblentz, Sandra Usuga Giraldo, junior Cadie Lourigan, administrator Dr. Redgina Hill, alumnae Jalyn King (’20) and Kristen Lynch (’91) and student organization La Fuerza all received the Drum Major recognition.

The program also profiled the work of Romona Bethany (’04). She received the Drum Major for Peace Award at the Martin Luther King Jr. Annual Breakfast in South Bend during her first year at Saint Mary’s. After graduation, Bethany earned a master’s degree in Intercultural and Urban Studies from the Theological Seminary in Chicago and a Certificate of Completion on Kingian nonviolence principles.

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has been the template for the greatest achievements in my life,” Bethany said. “I could not have foreseen such a trajectory. I went from receiving a Dr. King themed award and now am preparing to issue grant awards to willing [and] dedicated workers in efforts to reduce violence in the city of South Bend through the Office of Community Initiatives. I have been personally and professionally impacted by Dr. King and honestly, I know this is just the beginning of how his influence will continue to impact my life.”

CEO of Holy Cross Ministries Emmie Gardener (’82) shared the history of service completed by the Sisters of the Holy Cross, and subsequently the Holy Cross Ministries, and their connection to King’s mission.

According to Gardener, the Sisters established many hospitals, orphanages and schools. An initiative was started in 1995 to serve immigrant populations in Utah, which became Holy Cross Ministries. They are the largest visa provider in the state and provide outreach to domestic violence victims, English Language learners and other disadvantaged immigrant populations, Gardener said.

Gardener expressed the importance of the role of caring for immigrants to fulfill King’s legacy.

“On behalf of all of us here at Holy Cross Ministries, we are humbled and honored that the President’s Council on Inclusivity and Multicultural Diversity has asked us to be a part of the 2021 Martin Luther King Virtual Celebration,” she said. “We stand in solidarity with our immigrant brothers and sisters and continue to work to meet their needs as well as to create a more just inclusive and compassionate society.”

Chair of the History and Gender and Women’s Studies departments and one of this year’s Drum Major recognition recipients Dr. Jamie Wagman spoke on continuing the fight for equality inspired by King’s leadership.

“Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a day to reflect on the long arc of the civil rights movement and on Dr. King’s legacy and what people are still fighting for in this country today — the fight for equality. I am so grateful to Dr. King and all he gave to the United States. King is an icon [and] a leader,” she said. “His message must be carried on. We all must still be determined to work and fight.”

Art professor Ian Weaver said King’s views about service impact all parts of his life.

“If I had to choose one aspect of his legacy that would be the most impactful for me and how I live my life, it would be his approach to service,” Weaver said. “As King once said, ‘Everyone can be great because everyone can serve. You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.’ I’m struck by how this quote’s new definition of greatness, as [King] said, is within everyone’s reach. I think about this every day when I ask myself, ‘How can I be of service to my family, to my colleagues, my students, and my community?’”

The livestream featured a photo montage of King and recent Black Lives Matter protests.

Hill, also a recipient of one of the Drum Major recognitions, concluded the event with a reminder of King’s unpopularity at the time of his assassination and his courage to continue to campaign for universal equality.

“Although Dr. King gets revered today, at the time of his death, he was disliked by many Americans,” she said. “Even though Dr. King knew he was hated and that people were trying to kill him, it did not stop him for fighting for the freedoms, not only for himself but also for others.”

Recounting the Gospel story of the Good Samaritan, Hill encouraged community members to care for their neighbors, especially Black and brown communities who are suffering disproportionately during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are living in a time where so many of our neighbors are wounded, hurting and crying out in need of compassion and grace,” she said. “In 2020, the global pandemic and racial unrest showed us exactly who our neighbors are. The Black and brown communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. … As this day around the country is observed as a day of service, I challenge you to go and do the same. Serve your neighbors, love your neighbors, and fight for your neighbors.”

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About Genevieve Coleman

Genevieve Coleman is a sophomore at Saint Mary's majoring in English literature and secondary education with minors in theatre and English writing. She currently serves as Saint Mary's News Editor.

Contact Genevieve