Monday, Yale students will have the day off from classes for Martin Luther King Jr. Day for the first time, but organizers said the holiday is about more than a long weekend.
Following last year’s movement to have Yale cancel classes, there has been a campuswide effort to make the day off a “day on,” with numerous student-run activities planned in honor of King to promote diversity and public service. There is a broad range of activities offered — from community service to a talent showcase — that are all free and open to the public.
“Mobilization has been incredible in terms of the different organizations coming together to do their part” said Najah Farley ’03, a co-president of the black pride union. The Afro-American Cultural Center, Hillel, the Asian American Student Alliance, and the Peabody Museum of Natural History are only some of the groups involved in running activities on Monday.
Lindsey Greene ’04, an organizer of the day’s activities, said there have always been individual efforts to commemorate the holiday. But she added that this year will be the first in which there are large-scale collaborative efforts between the undergraduates, the graduate schools and the New Haven community.
“I strongly encourage students to support other students who worked to get this day off through effort and perseverance,” Greene said. “Hopefully, the day will be instituted and continue long after the students who campaigned for it graduate.”
Opening ceremonies will take place at Battell Chapel in the morning, and welcoming speeches will follow in Woolsey Hall, according to a schedule compiled by the Graduate School’s Office for Diversity and Equal Opportunity. The events of the day will start off with a community service mobilization at 11:00 a.m. where registered volunteers will participate in projects at several community organizations.
Educational presentations and workshops will be held during the day. Greene said there will be a display of pictures and inspirational words of King in the Woolsey Hall Rotunda. Several films will be screened, including “Eyes on the Prize” and King’s speech at Stanford.
Two panel discussions will take place as well. The first, “Civil Rights Movement: Dead or Alive?” will feature former Yale professor Rogers Smith and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement’s Monifa Adele, according to the diversity office’s schedule. The second, “Contemporary Art and Political Mobilization of Youth” will include artists D’Lo and Jonathan Jackson
The showcase of international talent in the evening will include performances by several Yale groups, including a traditional African dance troupe and the Korean drum group Unity, Greene said. Closing remarks will be given by University Chaplain Frederick Streets, and the ceremony will end with a candlelit vigil.
“It should be a day of reflection and movement towards achieving MLK’s vision” Farley said.
The Peabody museum will present events Sunday and Monday. The museum will host a “hip-hop cafe” consisting of live dance, music and poetry. Children’s storytelling, open-microphone community poetry, and educational activities focusing on environmental as well as social justice will also take place at the museum.
Greene said there will be a debriefing town hall meeting the week after Martin Luther King Jr. Day in which there will be frank discussion of issues raised on the holiday.
“Hopefully, there will be an honest discourse of feelings in support of events of MLK Day and people will speak honestly and openly about race at Yale,” Greene said. “Yale claims to be diverse, but real globalization starts at home. A large number of international students have been accepted early decision and we send transfer students all over the globe, however, we need to emphasize our global perspective within the University. We need to work on relations with each other.”