Thriving in the Current Times: Colgate’s MLK Celebration

LeAnna Rice, director of the ALANA Cultural Center, speaks during the MLK Celebration Opening Ceremony in Colgate Memorial Chapel, January 21, 2019, in Hamilton, N.Y. Samto Wongso / Colgate UniversityNikki Giovanni, world-renowned poet, writer, commentator, activist, and educator, provides the keynote address. Jonathan Aguilera / Colgate UniversityColgate students volunteer at the Earlville Opera House during the MLK 2019 Day of Service, January 25, 2019, in Earlville, N.Y. Mark DiOrio / Colgate UniversityColgate students volunteer at the Friends of Rogers Environmental Education Center during the MLK 2019 Day of Service, January 25, 2019, in Sherburne, N.Y. Mark DiOrio / Colgate UniversityElementary school students are read stories about the civil rights movement of the 20th century during the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Children's Reading Event at the Colgate Bookstore, January 21, 2019, in Hamilton, N.Y. Mark DiOrio / Colgate UniversityColgate students volunteer at the Friends of Rogers Environmental Education Center during the MLK 2019 Day of Service, January 25, 2019, in Sherburne, N.Y. Mark DiOrio / Colgate UniversityColgate students volunteer at the Hamilton Center for the Arts during the MLK 2019 Day of Service, January 25, 2019, in Hamilton, N.Y. Mark DiOrio / Colgate UniversityElementary school students participate in delivering the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. "I Have A Dream" speech during a reading event at the Colgate Bookstore, January 21, 2019, in Hamilton, N.Y. Mark DiOrio / Colgate UniversityElementary school students participate in delivering the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. "I Have A Dream" speech during a reading event at the Colgate Bookstore, January 21, 2019 in Hamilton, N.Y. Mark DiOrio / Colgate UniversityNikki Giovanni during a book signing of her new collection of poetry, A Good Cry and new children's book, I Am Loved Jonathan Aguilera / Colgate UniversityMembers of the Colgate community with a project led by Art Force 5, co-sponsored by the ALANA Cultural Center, work on painting canvas tiles to recreate a painting of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. '30, as part of Colgate's MLK 2019 celebration. The completed portrait will be placed in a public gallery in Harlem this summer. February 1, 2019. Mark DiOrio / Colgate UniversityMembers of the Colgate community with a project led by Art Force 5, co-sponsored by the ALANA Cultural Center, work on painting canvas tiles to recreate a painting of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. '30, as part of Colgate's MLK 2019 celebration. The completed portrait will be placed in a public gallery in Harlem this summer. February 1, 2019. Mark DiOrio / Colgate UniversityUnity dinner speaker Omid Safi, director of Duke University's Islamic Studies Center, delivers a talk during the inaugural MLK Week Unity Dinner, Jan. 24, 2019, in Hamilton, N.Y.[Mark DiOrio / Special to the Observer-Dispatch]

This year, Colgate’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration included two weeks of robust programming, Jan. 21–Feb. 1, centered on the theme “Thriving in the Current Times.”

“Thriving involves the wisdom of the community,” said LeAnna Rice, director of the ALANA Cultural Center and chair of the MLK Committee. In keeping with this theme the committee organized workshops aimed at promoting healing and self care, as well as events focused on career and networking for people of color.

Other events included a discussion on student activism led by Bennie Guzman ’17 and a workshop led by the Hamilton Area Anti-Racism Coalition (HAARC). Participants were invited to share their experiences in navigating race in Hamilton, N.Y. and contributed to an action plan for anti-racism work in the community.

The curators of the Longyear Museum of Anthropology and the Picker Art Gallery, Christy DeLair and Nicholas West, hosted a discussion on “Envisioning Thriving Museums.” Students, faculty, and staff gathered to explore strategies for increasing diversity and creating inclusive museums.

Colgate also enjoyed a visit from Art Force Five, a program based in Alfred, N.Y. committed to helping communities address conflict through art. The entire Colgate community was invited to participate in painting a tile as part of a mosaic depicting Adam Clayton Powell Jr. ’30. The completed mosaic will be on display in the ALANA Cultural Center for several months before being installed in a gallery in Harlem.

The celebration culminated with a keynote speech by noted author and poet Nikki Giovanni on Jan. 31. More than 300 students, faculty, staff, and community members braved the polar vortex to attend Giovanni’s lecture and book signing.

Giovanni charmed the audience with her wit, candor, and compassion for the human condition. Her speech was filled with stories, poems, and laughter. “Sometimes people forget that to be black is a wonderful thing,” she said. “Life is about joy, do something that makes you happy, do your job no matter how small it may seem. Our job is to make life a little better.”

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