PHOTO CAPTIONS: The Freedom March will be among the free events open to Ferris State University students, faculty, staff and the Big Rapids community on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Monday, Jan. 21. The Office of Multicultural Student Services and various co-sponsors will host events through Wednesday, Jan. 23.
A video preview of Ferris' Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.
Organizers of Ferris State University’s 33rd annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration have planned three days of events and activities beginning on Monday, Jan. 21 to honor the slain civil rights leader, while reflecting on social tension accelerated by politics, media and public discourse.
The Office of Multicultural Student Services is supported by a group of students, staff members and faculty representatives in developing and presenting the schedule of activities with the theme “Hate in America: Lessons Learned from MLK” for this year’s presentations. Assistant professor of Social Work Rita Walters said the subject matter is appropriate to consider, since Dr. King’s achievements came about through nonviolent means, including grassroots organization and civil, but respectful disobedience.
“I appreciate the focus on current events as they relate to racism and intolerance,” Walters said. “Conflicts can arise when one or more people exhibit a lack of understanding and acceptance of others whose ethnicity, sexual orientation or socio-economic backgrounds might be different than their own. I believe having a frank and sincere discussion about such issues can only benefit our campus and the Big Rapids community.”
Debbie Lynn Mayo, the director of Cramer, Henderson and Puterbaugh halls, is also on the MLK organizing committee. She said students from area K-12 districts, as well as area residents of all ages, are welcome to participate in or observe any of these events and displays.
“I definitely think that we are coming off a great response to the Tunnel of Oppression, and had a receptive audience at the 2018 MLK Student Tribute,” Mayo said. “Through these programs, committee members hope participants will be inspired to make for a better campus environment at Ferris, and that we can grow into a more thoughtful community.”
Students are invited to sign up for the MLK Day of Service Project, Operation Safe Sidewalks, on Monday, Jan. 21 by using OrgSync. Walters said participating in sidewalk and driveway shoveling, or debris pickup and sidewalk salting, if conditions merit, can provide students a meaningful experience while they show goodwill toward residents in neighborhoods around the main campus.
“It’s a chance to interact with each other, to engage in conversation with someone new to them,” Walters said. “This is also a chance to open peoples’ eyes and show them that students are willing to give back to the community.”
“Civility and Ethical Community” is the theme for the 25th annual faculty and staff in-service, which begins at 10 a.m. that day, in the University Center ballroom. The campus community is invited to the in-service in the University Center Founders’ Room at 1:30 p.m., where the Diversity and Inclusion Office will illuminate the early African-American experience at Ferris, which resulted from a collaborative effort with what was then known as Hampton Institute, in Virginia.
Other key events on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday include the annual Freedom March, beginning at 4 p.m. in the Rankin Center Atrium of the University Center, followed by the Student Tribute at 5:30 p.m. in University Center, Room 202.
“We hope that the public and campus can learn more about MLK’s legacy and good works by joining with us for both these events,” Mayo said.
The Office of the Dean of Student Life is offering Step UP! active bystander training, to promote proactive assistance in support of all members of the campus community. Participants are invited to sign up for the 11 a.m. session on Tuesday, Jan. 22 in University Center, Room 217.
The Tunnel of Oppression will be available for viewing from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in University Center, Room 116 beginning Tuesday, Jan. 22 with video displays, followed by discussions each hour. At 6 p.m. that evening, the 2018 film “The Hate U Give” will be shown in Room 120 of the Interdisciplinary Resource Center, with a discussion to follow.
The celebration concludes on Wednesday, Jan. 23 with the second day of operation for the Tunnel of Oppression, and a visit and presentation beginning at 6 p.m. by Ferris alumnus Khalid El-Hakim, the founder and curator of the Black History 101 Mobile Museum. El-Hakim will display his “Signature Series,” artifacts, documents and figures signed by African-American notables from the early 19th century to the modern day, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Founders’ Room of the University Center, which will be followed by his evening presentation “The Truth Hurts: Black History, Honesty and Healing the Racial Divide,” which will be offered in UCB 202.
Organizations co-sponsoring events during the 33rd annual MLK Celebration include the Black Student Union, the Center for Leadership, Activities and Career Services, the Diversity and Inclusion Office, the Office of Housing and Residential Life’s Harmony Project, the Social Work Association and You Beautiful Black Woman. Any person with a disability who may require assistance to attend an event is invited to contact OMSS by email at least 72 hours in advance, or by calling (231) 591-2617.