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Office of Diversity and Inclusion hosts workshop to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day

by Emily Murphy / Beacon Staff • January 31, 2013

To many, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is just a break from work. It’s an excuse for a weekend getaway, or a time to shop MLK Day sales. 

But for others, the day is an important time of consideration. The Moving Beyond “I Have a Dream”: Diversity Workshop, held in the Cabaret last Thursday was a celebration of the activist through a hands-on event hosted by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, with 29 faculty, administration, and students attending.

Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion Sylvia Spears said that the purpose of the workshop was to inform people about Martin Luther King Jr. and his philosophy.

“This holiday is a moment of pause and reflection. We must ask ‘Where have we come? What have we yet to do?’” Spears said at the event.

According to Spears, a vital part of celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day is contemplating the man who inspired it.

“I think it’s important that as people celebrate the official holiday of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth, they get the opportunity to know who the man was and understand his contribution to the country,” Spears said in an interview.

Part of Spears’ effort to educate the audience about King was through interactive portions of the workshop. In the beginning, she passed out lists of trivia questions about King’s life to each table, having them talk together about answers before reading them out to the group. These questions ranged from asking his exact date of birth, to how many times he had been arrested for civil disobedience.

Jennifer Pipp, a film camera technician for the television, radio, and film department and a participant at the workshop, said her favorite part of the event was when the tables worked together to name characteristics of a nonviolent community, something King pursued.

“Collaborating on an ideal society is almost awkward, because it’s such a big subject,” Pipp said in an interview. “But it really got the ball rolling.”

Pipp also said she enjoyed the last portion of the workshop, where Spears handed out King’s “Six Principles of Nonviolence” and “Six Steps for Resolving Conflict.”

“It’s practical and great that [Spears] encouraged us take this philosophy into the world and use it,” Pipp said. “Carrying it forward and embodying it is such an important thing right now. Talking about it is a beautiful part, but to actually practice it is something different.”

According to Spears, it’ll take more than just the attendees practicing this philosophy to obtain and keep a peaceful society.

“Everybody has a role, everybody has a part to play,” Spears said in an interview. “It takes an entire community to manifest the kind of values we want to see.”

Spears also said that this event was an important step with her work bringing diversity and inclusion to the school.

“I wanted to bring a greater understanding of how King affected change and brought his philosophy of nonviolence to move people,” Spears said. “For me, it’s really relevant to what we do at Emerson. We have a great community, but we still have work to do.”