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Dynamic speakers, community service anchor MLK celebration

Closeup of Crystal Fleming
“Crystal Fleming, an author and university professor from New York, is the first of three speakers scheduled for WSU’s MLK celebration.”

Washington State University’s Martin Luther King Jr. celebration includes a semester-long slate of engaging speakers and events, as well as opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to get involved in projects to help their communities.

The activities are designed to honor and remember Martin Luther King Jr., who dedicated his life to achieving equity for all people, said Allen Sutton, executive director for the Office of Social Justice Education & Outreach in Student Affairs and co-chair of the MLK Celebration Planning Committee.

“This is an opportunity to learn about American history, both positive and negative, and reflect on valuable lessons that should not be forgotten,” Sutton said. “I’m excited about all of the planned events and believe there is something that will interest everyone.” 

Elevating women’s voices

One of the goals of the MLK planning committee, according to Sutton, was to elevate the voices of women of color in this year’s slate of speakers. The committee selected three speakers Sutton said he is “over the moon” about bringing to WSU.

Crystal Fleming, an author and professor of sociology and Africana studies at SUNY Stony Brook, will kick off this year’s celebration with a keynote address on Feb. 7. Her speech, titled “How to be Less Stupid about Race,” will explore how systemic racism exposes people to racial ignorance and provide a road map for transforming knowledge into anti-racist change.

On March 1, civil rights attorney and author Michelle Coles will unpack how social justice and systemic change come from a thorough understanding of our past and on March 28, WSU Tri-Cities will host Tekita Bankhead, a DEI consultant, for a talk about the impacts inclusive leadership has on campus culture, mental health, and personal dedication to wellness.

“The more aware we are of our own biases and our effects on others, the more intentional we can be about how we show up and take care of each other,” said Kauser Gwaduri, coordinator for the MOSAIC Center for Student Inclusion at WSU Tri-Cities and MLK Celebration Planning Committee member. “Tekita will help give language to some of the pain caused by these biases and show how we can draw upon each other’s strengths to make our communities better.”

All speeches will be livestreamed. Event details, including times, locations, and links, are available on the MLK Program website.

Giving back to the community

MLK Day events often call for people to give back to the community, Sutton said, and WSU’s MLK celebration includes several opportunities for people to get involved:

  • Cougs are encouraged to get involved in service projects in their communities on Monday, Jan. 16. Visit WSU GivePulse to find ways to serve. The Center for Civic Engagement will also host a food drive that day from 12–6 p.m. on the Pullman campus to benefit the Cougar Food Pantry and Community Action Center.
  • Books and magazines will be collected on every WSU campus Jan. 17–Feb. 1 to be distributed to local women’s shelters, homeless shelters, and prisons. Materials can be dropped off at designated locations on each campus.
  • On Jan. 20, the WSU community can create caring cards (in person or virtually) for community partners such as local hospitals, teen shelters, and assisted living homes. At WSU Vancouver, the cards will go to the Vancouver Council for the Homeless.

“Our goal with the caring cards is to provide uplifting and supportive messages to those who may be going through challenging times,” said Sawyer Barragan, campus director for the Center for Intercultural Learning and Affirmation at WSU Vancouver.

Check the MLK Program website for details.

Day of Racial Healing

Coinciding with WSU’s MLK celebrations is National Day of Racial Healing (NDoRH), which WSU is celebrating for the first time on Jan. 17. NDoRH is intended to help the university community develop critical thinking that directly supports practices that are culturally and racially compassionate and ethical.

As part of the activities, individuals are encouraged to take a pledge to build a future of racial and social justice. Learn more about the Day of Racial Healing in the WSU Insider or visit the WSU NDoRH website.

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