The words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. have inspired countless people seeking justice in the past decades.
His “I Have a Dream” speech is one of the most important works in American oratory. At Selma, Montgomery and New York City, he delivered hope and strength in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges.
As the struggle for justice continues, it’s important to reexamine how King’s words can impact us in the present, said Maegan Pollonais, director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion at Franklin College.
“So many times, people like to use (King’s) quotes, but how do we actually apply it to today’s life? How would Dr. King look at our lives now and see that there was progress? Or do we need to take a good look at what we’re doing to move forward and honor that legacy,” she said.
Franklin College is embracing this spirit with its annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day events and activities on Monday. The college welcomes the entire community to learn how King’s impact and mission is applied today in a convocation lecture by Shaun Harper, an expert in diversity, equity and inclusion strategy.
Leading up to the public event, Franklin College students, staff and faculty will participate in activities ranging from a chapel service to a commemorative march to a food and clothing drive.
Together, the daylong celebration will encapsulate the different facets of King’s work.
“We’re taking from multiple approaches,” Pollonais said. “The college is taking very intentional ways to honor his legacy from service, from voters’ rights, from equity and social justice.
The centerpiece of the day is the convocation lecture by Harper. A faculty member at the University of Southern California in the Marshall School of Business, he advises CEOs and leaders on diversity, equity and inclusion strategy. He has worked with more than 400 businesses, firms and educational institutions during his career.
In addition, he has published 12 books and more than 100 academic papers. His research has been cited in over 16,000 published studies.
His lecture, “Modern-Day Applications to the Mission and Legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” is one that Pollonais feels will resonate greatly with the local community.
“I have been a fan of Dr. Harper for a very long time, so to be able to have him come to the college is very exciting for me,” “He’s a great scholar, and I’m so impressed and encouraged by his truth and his prowess and his commitment for equity. I don’t think we could have a better speaker.”
Though the convocation is the only activity open to the general public on Monday, the college has planned a wide variety of other celebrations for the campus community.
An ecumenical Christian worship service, led by college chaplain Rev. Hannah Adams Ingram, honors King’s legacy as a minister.
“He’s ‘Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’, so even that is really important,” Pollonais said “We’ll be singing the black national anthem and teaching students about that. We don’t know how many students know ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing,’ and know the significance of that.”
Guest preacher Rev. Ayanna Garrett, associate dean for student life at Christian Theological Seminary, will join Adams Ingram in the service at Richardson Chapel.
Following the service, participants will gather for a commemorative march across campus, starting at the Indiana Alpha Gazebo next to the college library and ending at the chapel. The march is a symbolic way to recognize those who marched before to win the freedoms known today, as well as to remember those who still struggle to have their freedoms recognized, Pollonais said.
Throughout the day, the college is hosting a food and clothing drive for students.
“We’ll be taking in things for our own students who may be struggling, who can come if they need things, can come get a coat or jacket or clothing,” Pollonais said.
Organizers have also planned a voting registration campaign, aligning with one of King’s main focuses during his life.
“We know voters’ rights were very important to Dr. King’s legacy. We’ll be inviting students to learn about who their local representatives are. We’ll be giving them an opportunity to actually register to vote,” Pollonais said. “It’s a really good learning opportunity around voters’ rights.”