A week of events celebrates Dr. King’s dream
This week, Portland State’s Multicultural Center, along with the help of various PSU organizations, is hosting a series of events commemorating the work of Martin Luther King Jr. All events are free and open to PSU students. Jon Joiner, director of the MCC and chairman of the MLK planning committee, said the events are designed to “take stock of how far we, as a society, have come since his death.”
Joiner said that the MLK Tribute Week is about reflection and commitment, and a way for “taking a mirror to ourselves and asking what would King think of our progress and the challenges ahead.”
MLK Tribute Week began yesterday with a service event that aimed to collect over 1,200 students from schools across the Portland area—including PSU—to improve the grounds and facilities at Roosevelt High School.
The event, planned by the Oregon Campus Compact, focused on education as a civil right. A third of the volunteers cleaned and beautified the school building and grounds while the remaining number collaborated on projects designed to promote education.
On Tuesday, Jan. 17, there will be a panel discussion about the coalition work of people of color. Expert panelists will primarily focus on criminal justice, health and transportation. They will also address public policy issues, lingering shortcomings and their impact on Portland communities.
The panel moderator is Robert Munoz Jr., assistant professor in Chicano Latino studies and university studies. The panel consists of Jo Ann Hardesty, former Oregon State legislator, former executive director of Oregon Action and former chair of Portland Community Media; Carlos J. Crespo, professor of community health and director of the PSU School of Community Health; William Feyerherm, professor of criminology and criminal justice in the School of Urban and Public Affairs; and Suk Rhee of the Northwest Health Foundation.
Later on Tuesday afternoon, the MCC is hosting a MLK Study Community. Attendees will have the opportunity to learn about Dr. King’s teachings and philosophy. Historical videos will be shown, and there will be round-table discussions centered aon the hypothetical question “What would Dr. King do if he were alive today?”
Wednesday’s events begin with the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority hosting a student-led panel discussion pertaining to topics of race and diversity at PSU. Focused tightly on the local PSU community, the theme of the discussion is a question: “Are we living Dr. King’s dream today?” Students from APA and AKA hope the panel will provide a more holistic view of the school’s handling of its diverse population.
The event is open to everyone and audience participation in the discussion is encouraged.
“I believe it’s important for students to teach other students,” said Jarrell Townsend, president of APA and senior marketing and black studies student.
“Education should not be limited to the walls of a classroom,” said Townsend. “Our own experiences as students may provide helpful learning opportunities for our fellow students.”
On Jan. 18, the Queer Resource Center is hosting a screening of An Untold Story, a documentary about writer and religion scholar Elena Rose. Rose, a self-described Filipina-Ashkenazic mixed-class trans dyke mestiza, is dedicated to projects of radical love, community building and media justice.
QRC Coordinator Cathlene McGraw wrote in an email interview that Rose’s work highlights Dr. King’s message of radical love “at the intersection of race, class, gender and sexual orientation.”
“Our communities are intertwined,” McGraw said. “And, we can’t help students be successful at PSU unless we work across identities. Our students don’t show up to PSU with just one identity that’s important to them.”
The event, McGraw wrote, draws attention to the kinds of work that unify MCC and QRC in a common cause.
On Thursday, Jan. 19, The Structural Manifestations of Inequality and Prejudice panel discussion will broach social and economic issues such as gentrification, rising homeless rates, economic stagnation and environmental justice and income inequality.
Munoz Jr. will also moderate the panel. The panel consists of Karen Gibson, associate professor in the School of Urban Studies and Planning; Sandra Hernandes, director and political educator at the Theatre for Transformation and Radical Education of Evolution; Yves Labissiere, assistant director of university studies and associate professor in the School of Community Health; and Tony de Falco, chair of the board of the Center for Diversity and Environment.
Dr. W. G. Hardy Jr., MLK Tribute Week’s keynote speaker, will be presenting at 7 p.m. on Thursday night. Hardy is the senior pastor of Highland United Church of Christ, located in Northeast Portland, and has done a significant amount of work to advocate for Africa and gentrified African American citizens in Northeast and North Portland. Tickets, available at the PSU box office, are free to students and $5 for the general public.
On Friday, Jan. 20, the MCC will screen the documentary A Class Divided. This film focuses on Jane Elliot, a teacher whose controversial lesson on discrimination in 1968 greatly impacted the lives of her third grade students.
At 3:30 p.m. on Friday, there will be a student leaders of color workshop hosted by Mark Gonzalez. Registration is required, and students can register at pdx.edu/salp/9th-annual-leadership-conference.
Kaibigan, PSU’s Filipino-American student association, will host In the Mix. Jenny Pham, Kaibigan’s recruitment coordinator, said the event “is about students expressing their talents.” Performances, ranging from speech to dance and music, are intended to celebrate ethnic diversity and freedom of expression. Pham added that Kaibigan is excited for an opportunity to illustrate that it is a “progressive group.” Pham thinks this event highlights their potential.
Joiner encourages everyone at PSU to check out this week’s line-up. “Nothing would make [the MLK planning committee] happier, than to see students, faculty and staff participating in any way that they can in the events of the tribute,” Joiner said.