MLK and His Legacy: Participants Explore Their Roles

By Purnell T. Cropper | January 28, 2011

By Jordyn Austin ’11

“The purpose of this type of program… is to ask ‘why?’… Everyone is a hope to humanity, but only when you ask yourself ‘why?’ and ‘what is my role in it… what is my purpose in life?’” So began Dr. Steve Michael, Provost and Academic Vice President, introducing the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Recognition and Intergroup Dialogue Program on Tuesday, Jan. 25.

The program was sponsored by the Office of Institutional Diversity in collaboration with Temple University’s Center for Justice and Multicultural Education. Dr. Fatima Hafiz of Temple University was a facilitator and lecturer for the event.

Hafiz took to the podium after the Provost to discuss the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She briefly introduced his history, but chose to focus on his message and his work as an activist, pacifist, and proponent of civil reform. She spoke of the influence that King had, and she pushed the audience to question how far his principles of reform have come.

As a means of engaging the audience, Hafiz at one point asked everyone to stand up and segregated groups based on their ethical background. “How does this make you feel?” she asked, wandering around the room. “What emotions and thoughts are you experiencing right now?” Audience members then voiced their perceptions and reactions to the activity, almost all negative or retrospective.

“It’s weird,” said one Arcadia student. “I never really saw these difference until now. I feel isolated, and I don’t like it.”

After the mini-discussion was finished and attendees returned to their seats, Hazif used the reactions brought up by her segregation activity to close her lecture. A video montage of King’s speeches and interviews was then shown, after which audience members were divided into two groups in separate rooms and a discussion forum was opened.

The discussions were headed by members of Temple University’s Center for Justice and Multicultural Education, but were largely open to public opinion and conversation. The discussion groups were a mixture of students, teachers, and faculty members of all ages and backgrounds from both Temple and Arcadia, making for a diversity that enriched the conversation and sparked intellectual commentary. Everyone was encouraged to participate, and the variety of opinions, reactions, and experiences was vast and thought-provoking. Topics such as how far civil reform has progressed, how racial experiences vary (especially among, but not limited, different generations), how times have changed, how to facilitate change, and how to be aware and an activist for social reform and equality all were addressed.

The program ended a little after 1 pm. Lunch was served, and participants in the event were invited to continue their conversations over pizza and other refreshments.