Willamette celebrates Martin Luther King Day

by Marketing & Communications,

  • Students, employees and alumni gathered in Cat Cavern sit in circles
  • Two people seated in a discussion
  • Smiling student in a discussion
  • ASWU president Amarit Ubhi speaks at a podium
  • Students pull shovels and tools from a wheelbarrow at a community garden
  • Student loads dead branches into a truck bed
  • Student loads dead branches into a truck bed
  • MLK week buttons with Fannie Lou Hamer and the quote Nobody's free until everybody's free.
  • Student volunteer at community garden
  • Student volunteer at community garden
  • Students receive instructions for the service project at community garden
  • bushes with a sign that says Northgate Forgiveness and peace garden in both English and Spanish

Classrooms across campus were empty Friday as Willamette students hit the streets in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — not for a protest, but to volunteer.

More than 80 students, faculty and staff spent the afternoon packaging food donations, pruning bushes, preparing shoe donations for distribution and doing whatever else was needed to help at 10 locations across Salem. “MLK: Into the Streets” is an annual event sponsored by the Office of Community Service Learning.

Sarah Connor ’21, CSL coordinator, said the event is meaningful “because it’s a perfect representation of different parts of Willamette coming together in a positive way.”

CSL appreciates that it can be part of the celebration, which is organized by the Office of Multicultural Affairs, by encouraging acts of service in students’ everyday lives, she said.

“MLK: Into the Streets” is just one way Willamette celebrates the world’s great activist and humanitarian. For college access program Willamette Academy’s annual event, five students presented a new take on news stories for “Freedom Dreaming: A Collection of Alternative Histories” based on famed human rights activist Fanny Lou Hamer's quote, “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”

Students chose major stories visitors might have a general familiarity with — the experience of young muslim girls wearing hijabs in a post-9/11 America, the shooting in El Paso that killed 22 people and injured 26 others — and rewrote them to help others engage with them in a new way, said advisor Francesca Floríndez ’19. They read their stories aloud at the Cat Cavern event and provided handouts to visitors to continue the conversation.

The idea was to “shift perception of the way you normally see and understand those narratives,” she said.

Other MLK events included a discussion of Ibram X. Kendi’s book, “How to be an antiracist” and a showing of the documentary “Fannie Lou Hamer’s America,” the first full-length film about Hamer told in her own words.

Filmmaker Joy Davenport combined rare archival recordings of Hamer’s songs, interviews, contemporary artwork and footage from Hamer’s home in the Mississippi Delta. Civic Communication and Media professors Pablo Correa and Maegan Parker Brooks, who contributed to the film, interviewed Davenport at a Q&A following the film.

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