In order to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, NMU held several events throughout the week to draw attention to the achievements of the political activist and how his message has advanced the idea of racial tolerance.
Various campus organizations worked on events such as an open mic performance, a presentation by author Bakari Kitwana and a product drive to support under-privileged women.
On Jan. 18, students gathered in the Starbucks lounge to read various types of writings to an audience of students and faculty members. Black Student Union member and electronic journalism major Aaron Whitaker read a poem for the occasion. She considered the event to be somewhat flawed because of the venue where the event took place.
“It was kind of irritating because a lot of the people weren’t paying attention and weren’t there for the program,” she said. “It would have been nice if they would’ve been a little respectful and kept the noise down.”
Despite the lack of an ideal venue for the presenting speakers, Whitaker believes that the message of Martin Luther King can still be relevant within the NMU community today.
“There are still people out there who are ignorant about the black community,” she said. “[They] only see the negative side while completely ignoring the extremely positive things that we have done and are still doing.”
Whitaker said that other student presenters read mostly biographical information and poetry related to King, his wife, and Rosa Parks. Excerpts from speeches made by both King and President Obama were also performed. A birthday cake was provided by Dining Services during the event in honor of the holiday.
Although Whitaker appreciates the effort put forth from the NMU community on Monday, she thinks one day a year simply isn’t enough to be reminded of this important civil rights leader.
“I think programs like [the reading] should be more than just on MLK day, because history, especially black history, is [important] 365 days a year,” she said.
Whitaker said she thought that NMU could do even more to further raise awareness of the contributions King made toward a more racially equal United States during his career.
“I believe that NMU could put an extra effort into promoting events like this and taking the time out to really pay attention to what it is that minorities on campus need and/or want,” she said. “[NMU needs] to get the student body excited about celebrating history, regardless of [their] race.”
Associate Director of the Multicultural Education and Resource Center (MERC) Shirley Brozzo said that the events on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day are a small tribute to a significant historical figure in American social change.
“We have to keep remembering the fight and the struggle that [King] went through to provide equality,” she said. “Students have to remember the ideas that King pushed, and we still have to continue the fight [toward these ideals].”
Brozzo said that she hoped speaker Bakari Kitwana, senior editor of newsone.com, would be able to reach a college-age audience with his speech on Wednesday night. Brozzo described Kitwana as a younger dynamic speaker who can portray King’s message to a college-age audience.
In addition to the speakers associated with the Martin Luther King Day, the MERC office is working with Planned Parenthood to setup collection areas around campus for products that are beneficial for underprivileged women. They are currently looking for items such as tampons, razors and other hygiene supplies geared toward women.
“With a small effort, you can make a difference for someone in a difficult situation,” said Rebecca Tavernini, university editor for communication and marketing. “[The program] shows that the community cares about them and it shows that their basic needs are being taken care of.”
Students and faculty interested in donating to the program can drop off supplies at the MERC office until Jan. 22, and items can also be dropped off at Planned Parenthood on Third Street in Marquette.