“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
This may not be one of Martin Luther King’s most famous quotes, yet the words are just as relevant today as when he spoke them nearly five decades ago. So much so that that the Washington State University MLK Celebration Committee used them for inspiration in planning this year’s activities.
A full slate of events is scheduled beginning on Thursday, Jan. 16 with a film and culminating with a keynote address by W. Kamau Bell on Jan. 23. A complete list of activities, dates, times, and locations can be found on the WSU MLK website.
Happiness a life skill
Staying true to King’s message of power and love, this year’s celebration will have a new twist. Allen Sutton, executive director for outreach and education in Community, Equity and Inclusive Excellence and chair of the MLK Planning Committee, said the WSU Pullman community will have opportunities to practice mindfulness. In fact, the committee created what Sutton called Mindfulness Monday for the national MLK holiday on Jan. 18.
“We want people to find their voice and be able to navigate spaces with confidence, and sometimes in order to do that, we need to focus on mental health and work on the full person,” Sutton said. “It’s a great way to advance Dr. King’s dream by making sure we are healthy, happy, and able to communicate what we need to be successful here at WSU and wherever life may take us.”
The mindfulness activities are spearheaded by MLK planning committee member Trymaine Gaither, a recruitment coordinator in the Honors College, and Honors clinical associate professor Lydia Gerber, director of the Mindfulness-Based Emotional and Social Intelligence (MESI) Certificate. Gaither is also a coordinator for MESI.
Through innovative coursework, workshops, local and global service projects, and guest speakers, MESI teaches happiness as a life skill and provides Honors students with the tools to improve their performance, relationships, health and happiness.
“Many companies in the state of Washington and around the world are adopting mindfulness practices,” said Grant Norton, dean of the Honors College. “We thought by offering mindfulness training to our students, they can learn important skills that will help prepare them for the environment they will face in the corporate world. We are excited to help bring this training to a broader audience during MLK week.”
Mindfulness and social justice
Gaither, Gerber and Cecilia Richards, a professor in the WSU School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, will co-facilitate “Mindfulness Retreat: Tools to Create a Beloved Community” beginning at 9:30 a.m. in the Honors Lounge in Elmina White Honors Hall. Participants must register for this event.
The Mindfulness Retreat will be followed by an interfaith panel discussion on the place of mindfulness in world religions, an introduction to yoga and meditation, a session on mindful parenting and raising children in an unjust world, and a workshop on valuable tools to have when having difficult conversations around social justice. The final event on Monday, starting at 5 p.m. is a community-wide mindfulness hour that will explore the interplay between our inner lives and our shared community.
Joanne Greene, director of student programming at University Recreation, said there is a lot of research about how mindfulness impacts your physical and emotional health, but most are unaware of its potential for social justice.
“During the yoga and meditation practice, I plan to introduce people to mindfulness and ahimsa, a yoga principle that teaches non-violence, compassion, love, and kindness,” Greene said. “My hope is participants will continue to explore these principals off their mats to help create a more just world.”
Be part of the movement
Also new to MLK Week is implicit bias training. Jaime Nolan, associate vice president for Community, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence, will conduct two implicit bias workshops, one for students on Jan. 21, and another for faculty and staff on Jan. 22. Other key topics presented during the week include the power of writing and literature in helping to understand and overcome trauma, how to become a better ally, and student rights and responsibilities under WSU’s policy prohibiting discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual misconduct.
Those who like to watch films will have several options including “A Raisin in the Sun,” “Suppressed: The Fight to Vote,” “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” and “True Justice.”
The Foley Institute will host Bell for a presentation titled “Comedy & Politics, on Jan. 23 at noon, in Bryan Hall 308. That evening he will deliver the keynote address during the MLK Community Celebration, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the CUB Senior Ballroom, where the 2020 MLK Distinguished Award recipients will also be recognized. Both of these events will be livestreamed.
The Community Celebration and all the activities planned for MLK Week, are free and open to the public.
“Whether it’s implicit bias training, learning how to get along with others, or talking about voter suppression, these events will help you figure out how you can be part of the movement to make change in the world and here at WSU,” Sutton said.