Community honors Martin Luther King, Jr. through memorial event
Members of the Brandeis and Waltham communities gathered to remember King and his revolutionary work.
In a celebration full of music and laughter as well as reflection and remembrance, members of the Brandeis community recognized the University’s 14th Annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, entitled “Unapologetic Love & Light,” in the Carl J. Shapiro Campus Center Theatre Monday night. Dean of Students Jamele Adams emceed the event and performed his own spoken word poetry.
Dr. Carlton Green, director of Diversity Training and Education at the University of Maryland, gave the keynote speech, called “Trauma and Truth Telling: The On-going Struggle for Inclusion & Equity in Progressive Institutions.” Green spoke about the physiological and mental effects of racial trauma, which he defined as “racial incidents that are unexpected, experienced as threatening and result in significant psychological distress,” including increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Green said that the effects of racial trauma hinder the performance of students of color on college campuses by negatively affecting their memory, sense of self-worth and ability to sleep and focus.
Green also discussed the difference between diversity work and anti-racist work. Diversity work focuses on the desires of white people, Green said, whereas what is necessary for true racial justice is an anti-racist ethic that acknowledges histories of oppression and power dynamics, moving beyond simple “intergroup contact.” According to Green, this work can be facilitated when people of color step back from doing the work in conversations about race and inequality and ask white people to exercise the “muscle,” as Green put it, of engaging in conversations about race. White people, as well as any member of a dominant social group, can also work to hold members of their groups accountable and hold them to higher standards of social justice, he said.
In addition to Green’s speech, audience members enjoyed a performance from Brandeis’ Platinum Step Team, which focused on the theme of what it means to them to have unapologetic love and light. The Toxic Majorette Dance Line also performed, as well as Kwesi Jones ’21, who gave a comedic reflection on the past decade. Cassipea Stithe ’22 performed a piece of spoken word poetry, and Rasheed Peters ’20 recited and reinterpreted one of King’s sermons in a musical piece.
Aja Antoine ’17 spoke about the legacy of Black mothers’ pain in racial activism through the lens of the mothers of Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin. Both women dedicated themselves to activism after the murders of their sons. Antoine noted the legacy of “collective mourning” in African American history, which she saw expressed in gospel, spiritual, blues and rap music. She also spoke of the necessity for hope in times that seem particularly dark. “We must hold steadfast to our humanity,” Antoine said.
Students from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management invoked King’s anti-Vietnam War stance to advocate against the current conflict with Iran. They invited students to join a rally against further escalation of conflict with Iran on Saturday, the Global Day of Protest.
The event came to a close with a rousing musical performance by the David Marshall Jackson United Voices of Praise choir, a gospel choir based out of both Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Green holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Boston College. Green was also recognized as a 2016 Diversity Scholar by the Association of Counseling Center Training Agencies for his work as a staff psychologist at the University of Maryland Counseling Center.
The event was sponsored by the Men of Color Alliance, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the Dean of Students Office.
In addition to the memorial, the 10th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Interfaith Day of Service took place Monday morning, where participants packed meals for food pantries and congregations that serve homeless communities. Attendees also spoke with nonprofits about social justice, according to an email from the Dean of Students Office about the day’s events.