The spring 2015 semester will begin with students and community members gathering to commemorate civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Throughout the first week of the semester, the Colleges and the city of Geneva will host “Respect For All: It’s Still The Dream,” offering an array of memorial services and volunteer opportunities in honor of Dr. King.
On Monday, Jan. 19, all members of the Geneva community are invited to the city’s Annual Martin Luther King Jr. March and Memorial Service. Participants will march from the Geneva Public Safety Building at 9:30 a.m. to the First United Methodist Church. Annual participant HWS Chaplain Lesley Adams reflected on the significance of the march this year in light of current events in Ferguson and Staten Island.
“The fact that we have gathered every year on Martin Luther King Day as community to reflect on our common values and commitments–means that when terrible things happen and we want to witness together we are not strangers. It means that we have already affirmed that when one can’t breathe, none of us can breathe; and so it is time to march again,” Adams says.
HWS and high school students attending the HWS Centennial Center’s annual Leadership Institute will take part in the march in solidarity with the greater Geneva community.
“For our Leadership Institute participants, the Martin Luther King Day march offers an opportunity to take part in an event that represents the essence of leadership in action,” says CCL Coordinator of Leadership Programs Kaylyn O’Brien ’12. “Not only does our participation in the march signify our commitment to his legacy but it is also meaningful for students to be able to engage with the Geneva community for this day of remembrance.”
Syracuse University Professor of English and former director of the Latino/Latin-American Studies Program Silvio Torres-Saillant will preside over the worship services at First United Methodist church at 11 a.m. Torres-Saillant, a deeply-invested community worker, co-founded La Casita Cultural Center, an organization in the Near West Side of the City of Syracuse with the mission to create bridges of communication, collaboration, and exchange linking Syracuse University with the Latino population of the city and promoting the Hispanic heritages of Central New York. He also serves in the core team of Democratizing Knowledge, an initiative supported by the Syracuse University Chancellor’s Leadership Projects that promotes strategies for decolonizing the academy.
Music will be sung by members of the Martin Luther King Memorial Choir. Directed by Patrisha Blue ’77 of the Religious Life Office at HWS, the community choir welcomes new members to the choir regularly. For community members who are unable to attend the worship services, WEOS-FM Live will rebroadcast the service in full on Sunday, Jan. 25 from 7 to 9 a.m.
“For me the most moving parts of Martin Luther King Day are always the events in town – the march and the service and dinner,” reflects Adams. “The opportunity for the whole community, including the Colleges, to gather and remember the work of Dr. King, as well as to renew our commitment to justice and equality is so important.”
In addition on Monday, Jan. 19, the Colleges will host its Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, volunteering in the greater Geneva community. Students will work at the Geneva chapter of the Sons of Italy, Beverly’s Animal Shelter, Mt. Olive Baptist Church, Geneva Women’s Club, Geneva Business Improvement District, and more. Students interested in participating should register on the organization’s CollegiateLink website.
On the following Monday, Jan. 26, HWS will host a discussion called “Preserving Dr. King’s Legacy: A Conversation with Geneva’s Martin Luther King Committee” at 7 p.m. in the Geneva Room of the Warren Hunting Smith Library. Reverend Donald Golden, president of the Martin Luther King Committee and senior pastor at Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church, will offer introductory remarks and facilitate discussion with featured community members. Admission is free and all are encouraged to attend to gain a better perspective on civil rights and Dr. King. Before the conversation, a public reception will be held in the Scandling Faculty Dining Room of the Scandling Campus Center at 5:30 p.m.
“This is following in the path of the two events we had on campus last year on the concept of Black Lives Matter,” says Alejandra Molina, director of Intercultural Affairs. “We’ve always asked for speakers from the region, but this year we thought to go more deeply local and invite a speaker from Geneva. It is a follow-up on the relationship with Geneva that has been strengthened by students.”
The city of Geneva has a longstanding tradition in civil rights. As one of the first communities to advocate for Martin Luther King Day to become a national holiday, many families remain committed to preserving Dr. King’s legacy.
“The conversation we are going to have on the 26th is a chance for local leaders to educate us as a community on the work that they have done over the years,” explains Molina.
“The message behind the work of Dr. King is still tremendously relevant today, it is important for our students to see firsthand the long term impact of his leadership,” adds O’Brien.