First full-day MLK celebration offers reflection, service

Posted January 17th, 2008 at 4:19 pm.

Although classes will not be in session on Monday, Jan. 21, the Bryn Mawr campus will be far from quiet during its first full-day celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Since President Nancy J. Vickers announced in November that the College had rescheduled the first day of classes in honor of the holiday, a committee of staff and faculty members has been hard at work creating a program of activities that invite members of the community to put King’s ideals into practice.

“Although it is a holiday for staff members, the College made the decision to treat this as a day of activity,” said Dean Chuck Heyduk.

Director of Intercultural Affairs Christopher MacDonald-Dennis was pleased with this decision. “I am thrilled that there will be no classes because this is an opportunity for us as a community to come together and celebrate Dr. King’s life. Most importantly, we reflect on how much of his vision has been actualized and can hopefully recommit to finishing the vision he had of a just society,” he said.

Bryn Mawr Dining Services will offer meals on a slightly modified schedule, and students as well as members of the faculty and staff are being encouraged to take part in one or more of a variety of activities. Download a schedule here.

Among the offerings are several opportunities to engage in community service, both on and off campus. There will also be a “service fair” featuring representatives of agencies that serve the local community and hope to recruit longer-term commitments from volunteers, says Civic Engagement Office Co-Director Ellie Esmond.

“Our office is happy to offer service opportunities for the day,” says Esmond, “but our overall focus is on developing lasting, reciprocal relationships with our partner agencies. We’re excited about this opportunity to introduce these opportunities to faculty and staff as well as students.”

One off-campus opportunity will take advantage of the College’s relationship with the Main Line Martin Luther King Society, which traditionally hosts a Sunday program in Goodhart Theater (see related story). The Society’s Monday-morning programming at Cooperstown Elementary School is open to faculty and staff members and their families.

On campus, a new program inspired by NPR’s popular Story Corps, will establish “an intimate space where community members can share their experiences, hopes, and dreams relating to civil rights and social justice,” says Vanessa Christman, program coordinator in Intercultural Affairs.

Faculty Chair Liz McCormack has organized a panel discussion of King’s continuing impact on education. The panel will include Associate Professor of Africana Studies and History Kalala Ngalamulume, Professor of Sociology Mary Osirim, Professor of Sociology Bob Washington, and Professor of Chemistry Susan White. They will be leading a discussion of Dr. King’s legacy and how it has shaped and continues to shape academic work in their research areas of history, science, and sociology.

Jackie Fleming ’08 will lead a workshop on injustice in the prison system. Alice Lesnick of the College’s Teaching and Learning Initiative will screen the documentary Women of Summer, which focuses on the Summer School for Women Workers in Industry that Bryn Mawr hosted in the 1920s, and lead a discussion of the College’s social-justice legacy and its relationship to efforts on campus today.

An interfaith gathering and dessert in the Campus Center Main Lounge will round out the day.

The committee developed the programming with the help of a survey of community members.

“This is a transitional year for us,” says Civic Engagement Office Co-Director Nell Anderson. “Because we’ve never offered a full day of programming before, we aren’t sure what the turnout will be like. The responses to this year’s activities will help us begin planning for next year, and we’ll be keeping our eyes and ears open to suggestions. ”

For more information about volunteer opportunities, contact the Civic Engagement Office at x6591.

Comments are closed.