On Monday, the Colgate University community paused in its academic pursuits to hold the opening ceremony of its annual MLK Celebration in Memorial Chapel. This year, the celebration spans a two-week period from Jan. 21 to Feb. 1 and is built around the theme Thriving in the Current Times.

In her opening remarks, LeAnna Rice, director of the ALANA Cultural Center, explained the theme. “In order to realize and expand the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we must also remember to take care of ourselves and our communities,” she said.

The theme is based on four pillars:

  • Mental/Emotional Health
  • Centering and Celebrating Marginalized Voices
  • Socially Just Leadership
  • Connection and Community Building

Thomas Bennett ’72, P’06’09, a member of the governing board of the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum in Peterboro, N.Y., followed Rice’s opening remarks with a lecture on the history of social activism in the central New York region.

“Abolition was a transnational, interracial movement,” Bennett said. “The struggle over slavery made central New York a center of radical abolitionist thought and action.”

Juan Saenz ’20 performed “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” accompanied by pianist Diane Adams-McDowell, and Rice closed the ceremony with a quote by Maya Angelou. “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”

A full roster of events and workshops centered on the theme of thriving will take place throughout the coming days. The calendar includes Colgate’s inaugural Unity Dinner, an interfaith community-building event bringing together more than 25 religious student groups for a meal and a talk by Omid Safi, director of Duke University’s Islamic Studies Center. Today, community members are engaged in an afternoon of service.

The University’s MLK Celebration will culminate in a keynote speech by acclaimed author and poet Nikki Giovanni on January 31 and an all-day, communitywide art project to paint a 300-piece mosaic tribute to Colgate’s Adam Clayton Powell Jr. ’30. The artwork will be placed in a public gallery in Harlem this summer.

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