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‘MLK Day: Your Way’ to Offer Students Varied Ways to Celebrate and Reflect

Students will not have class and are instead encouraged to participate in activities honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

ALMA — Students, staff and faculty at Alma College will observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 18 by participating in a range of activities designed to celebrate the life and legacy of the slain civil rights leader in their own way.

“MLK Day, Your Way: Listen, Remember, Serve, Act” offers the campus community a series of events — several which are open to the public — including a keynote speech and workshop by a noted social justice educator, a clothing drive and a spoken word poetry reading. Classes are canceled for the day and Alma sports teams will not have practice.

“One of the key themes of Alma College’s mission statement is to prepare graduates who think critically and serve generously, and that’s something we aim to promote with these events,” said Donnesha Blake, director of diversity and inclusion. “In preparing the Martin Luther King Jr. Day schedule, we wanted to be inclusive and offer something for everyone — various ways for people of different comfort levels and interests to reflect and give back, in the spirit of Dr. King.”

The day begins with a chapel service, centered around the theme of social justice in a conflicted society, led by Alma College Chaplain Andrew Pomerville and broadcast on social media. There will be use of scripture, songs, and readings that were particularly meaningful to King during his life and ministry, as well as student readers and music. The service starts at 10:30 a.m. in the college’s Dunning Memorial Chapel.

From there, a clothing drive is scheduled, hosted by the Alma College AmeriCorps group and the Diversity and Inclusion Office. The goal, according to organizers, is to create a “gender-affirming closet” — a space for LGBTQ people, and others, to receive free clothing in a space free from barriers and judgment. When completed, the closet will be available at the coffee shop Highland Blush in downtown Alma. The drive is scheduled from 1 to 4 p.m. at the college’s Center for Student Opportunity in Tyler-Van Dusen Campus Center.

The day is headlined by a keynote address and workshop by Jen Fry, a social justice educator, who will speak on issues including diversity, equity and inclusion in a talk titled “Pushing Forward Means Being Uncomfortable.”

Fry will also facilitate dialogue between small and large groups on campus, across several departments, on best practices to build a campus community with a focus on anti-racism. Fry is presenting in-person in Presbyterian Hall at the Remick Heritage Center and will be broadcasted live on Zoom.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, space is limited for the in-person presentation and only open to the Alma College community. For more information, including how to register for the Zoom session, email Donnesha Blake at blakeda@alma.edu or call (989) 463-7463.

“Jen Fry is one of those speakers who is so valuable to have on campus, because when you leave her session, you’re going to feel fired up,” Blake said. “We’ve been working for quite a while on initiatives related to diversity, equity and inclusion, and what Jen provides is a good, hard reset — a back-to-basics type of instruction on what this work means and why we do it.”

“The MLK Vigil: A Tribute to Black Lives” is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. The vigil, hosted by the Alma College Black Student Union, Multi-Cultural Student Union and the Diversity and Inclusion Office, offers the public an opportunity to commemorate the accomplishments of Black lives lost. It begins at Stone Recreation Center and continues through to McIntyre Mall.

The day’s slate of events wraps up with a spoken word poetry reading, which will be held over Zoom from 7 to 9 p.m. Poets honor King’s legacy with works revolving around the themes of activism, resistance, oppression, liberation, revolution and justice. The event, hosted by the Alma College English Department and the Diversity and Inclusion Office, is open to the public; all levels of skill and experience are welcome. Participants are encouraged to sign up at tinyurl.com/almaMLKpoetry.

Other academic departments, offices and student organizations at Alma College are expected to host additional events and tributes throughout the day. Students are encouraged to visit the events calendar at alma.edu for more information.

Story published on January 11, 2021