Hobart and William Smith Colleges is conducting a week-long commemoration of the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr.
“As an institution, one of our overreaching missions is that we promote the need for service to others,” says Director of Academic Opportunity Programs James Burruto. “Much of this work is focused on social justice work, which is in line with Dr. King’s philosophy of engaging oneself in ones community to make it better for those who may not have the privileges that we enjoy as college students, staff and faculty. Celebrating Dr. King’s legacy is a way to remind those who know and to educate those who may not understand the importance of justice work.”
Kicking off the celebration on Monday morning, the HWS community joined the Geneva community downtown for the annual memorial march from the Public Safety Building to the United Methodist Church, where a worship service featured a talk by Rev. Sherman Dunmore Sr. and music by the Martin Luther King Memorial Choir.
Following the march, HWS and local high school students participated in the Leadership Institute, listening to a talk by Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs Dean Montrose Streeter, who spoke about Martin Luther King as a leader of action. Following this address, Director of the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning Katie Flowers lead a panel discussion titled “Honoring King’s Legacy: Religion, Social Action, and Collaboration,” where students heard panelists from local faith communities share their perspective on why religion inspires social action and how young people can gain strength from respectful communication of diverse beliefs.
Returning students also can celebrate King’s legacy at a reception held at the Intercultural Affairs House on Thursday, Jan. 19 at 1:30 p.m. Later that night, the HWS and Geneva communities will gather to hear The Rev. Harold Middlebrook, a friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who was active in the Civil Rights Movement, speak during a President’s Forum lecture at 7:30 p.m. in the Vandervort Room of the Scandling Campus Center.
“It is not often that one has the immense honor of interacting with and listening to a living legend like Rev. Middlebrook, who was in the trenches fighting for social justice as one of Dr. King’s closest associates,” explains Burruto. “Who better to celebrate and commemorate Martin Luther King with our community than a man who walked arm and arm with him, knowing that he could be beaten, hurt or even killed but pushed on because he knew that their work was larger than himself. “
Middlebrook is a senior pastor at Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in Knoxville, where he accepted a pastorate in 1977. He has kept King’s legacy alive through social welfare initiatives such as the Canaan Baptist Housing Corporation, and as chair until 2000 of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Commission of Greater Knoxville.
In conjunction with the national Day of Service, students will conclude the week-long celebration by participating in the Martin Luther King Day of Service on Saturday, Jan. 21. Leading the group, Streeter will reflect on King’s life before volunteers head off to help Geneva community members, including the Geneva Theater Guild, the Community Lunch Program and First Baptist Church.
The Day of Service is funded in part from a Martin Luther King Jr. Collegiate Challenge grant that was recently awarded to HWS by the Michigan Campus Compact in partnership with Wisconsin Campus Compact and the Corporation for National and Community Service.
“Starting off the semester with service on the first Saturday after classes makes a statement about who we are as a community,” says Flowers.
Anyone interested in participating in the Day of Service, can sign up during tabling next week in the Scandling Campus Center or e-mail DOS@hws.edu.