Thriving in the Current Times: Colgate’s MLK Celebration

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This year, Colgate’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration included two weeks of robust programming, Jan. 21–Feb. 1, centered on the theme “Thriving in the Current Times.”

“Thriving involves the wisdom of the community,” said LeAnna Rice, director of the ALANA Cultural Center and chair of the MLK Committee. In keeping with this theme the committee organized workshops aimed at promoting healing and self care, as well as events focused on career and networking for people of color.

Other events included a discussion on student activism led by Bennie Guzman ’17 and a workshop led by the Hamilton Area Anti-Racism Coalition (HAARC). Participants were invited to share their experiences in navigating race in Hamilton, N.Y. and contributed to an action plan for anti-racism work in the community.

The curators of the Longyear Museum of Anthropology and the Picker Art Gallery, Christy DeLair and Nicholas West, hosted a discussion on “Envisioning Thriving Museums.” Students, faculty, and staff gathered to explore strategies for increasing diversity and creating inclusive museums.

Colgate also enjoyed a visit from Art Force Five, a program based in Alfred, N.Y. committed to helping communities address conflict through art. The entire Colgate community was invited to participate in painting a tile as part of a mosaic depicting Adam Clayton Powell Jr. ’30. The completed mosaic will be on display in the ALANA Cultural Center for several months before being installed in a gallery in Harlem.

The celebration culminated with a keynote speech by noted author and poet Nikki Giovanni on Jan. 31. More than 300 students, faculty, staff, and community members braved the polar vortex to attend Giovanni’s lecture and book signing.

Giovanni charmed the audience with her wit, candor, and compassion for the human condition. Her speech was filled with stories, poems, and laughter. “Sometimes people forget that to be black is a wonderful thing,” she said. “Life is about joy, do something that makes you happy, do your job no matter how small it may seem. Our job is to make life a little better.”