MLK Day/Black History Month

Lebanon Valley Campus Unites for Martin Luther King Jr. Day Programming

Lebanon Valley College students and staff took break from their traditional class schedules on Monday, Jan. 20 to learn, grow, and commit as a campus to comprehensive and continuing engagement with our diverse community on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The first Symposium on Inclusive Excellence included two morning sessions, a community luncheon, and an afternoon speaker.

Participants registered for two morning sessions from the following topics facilitated by LVC faculty, staff, and community presenters including Rev. Frank Schaefer and Rabbi Paula Reimers:

  • American Musical Instruments and American Music
  • Blackface Minstrelsy
  • Circle Walk
  • Intercultural Competence
  • Equality House's Successful Response to Westboro Baptist Church
  • Female Coaches Panel
  • Forming a Community Out of Nothing: Rethinking our Responsibilities Toward Others and Otherness
  • Inclusive Instructional Excellence for Students with Concussions, Disabilities, and Other Health Issues
  • Intersectionality and Difference: Race, Class, and Gender
  • Just The Individual
  • Linguistic Diversity - How different ways of speaking contribute to culture and identity.
  • LVC Think Tank
  • Martin Luther King Jr. on War, Race, and Poverty
  • Presentation of "4 Little Girls"
  • Presentation on Color and Culture
  • Public Spirituality and Bias
  • Racism and Privilege Defined
  • Reflections from the Rev. Frank Schaefer
  • Responding to Systemic Bias
  • See Color?
  • Social Media and Hate Speech
  • Talking About Race, Class, Gender & Sexuality Inside the Classroom & Out
  • The Life of Berenice Abbott
  • The War Within
  • Victorian Painting and Reading Racial Type
  • Visions of Social Justice in Elementary and Middle School Classrooms
  • What The Heck is Queer Theory?

The afternoon session featured Yewande Austin, president and founder of the Global Institute for Diversity and Change, in a presentation titled "Bridging the Gap: Rhythms, Rhymes, and Race in America." From M.T.V. and B.E.T. to the historic Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Austin’s internationally acclaimed music has sung universal truths about issues that many artists shy away from—poverty, religion, war. While moments performing with the Black Eyed Peas, Enrique Iglesias, India Arie and Sean Paul are memorable, it is her work as an award-winning lecturer and social activist that has become perhaps her greatest achievement.

The Global Institute for Diversity and Change’s programs are committed to bridging the gap between cultural understanding, leadership excellence and social justice across the globe. As an honorary Cultural Ambassador to the United States Embassy (Malawi, Africa), her message of solidarity continues to foster critical relationships between America and our global community through the transformational power of music. When she’s not lecturing, Austin’s humanitarian organization, the Change Rocks Foundation, produces music-based empowerment initiatives from Africa to the Americas where extreme poverty threatens the lives of millions of vulnerable children every day. As an M.A. candidate in Ethnomusicology at the prestigious University of Sheffield in England, her research is dedicated to uncovering our profound connection between music and socio-economic transformation. It is this inspiring commitment to humanity that has ignited a global movement.

Students Reflect on the Symposium on Inclusive Excellence
On a normal Monday, I don’t have class until 1 p.m. Therefore, I usually spend my time from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. spending quality time with my bed. However, I am glad that I woke up bright and early for the Symposium on Inclusive Excellence.

The first session that I attended was in the Miller Chapel sanctuary, and presented by Rev. Frank Schaefer. Schaefer has recently been in the national spotlight for performing the wedding of his gay son. The United Methodist Church, of which Schaefer was a member, ended up taking him to trial for violating the code of conduct for ministers. The result was that the reverend was defrocked--he could no longer practice as a reverend in the United Methodist community.

This presentation hit home the fact that people are still standing up for civil rights in Lebanon County in 2014. Sometimes we wear blinders and don’t realize the hate that is around us. In fact, Rev. Schaefer’s session was picketed. Picketers at LVC! All because a man performed the wedding for his son and the love of his son’s life.

I think that Rev. Schaefer’s presentation and the entire day opened many eyes to injustices that are happening around us every day. Moving forward, I see the LVC community becoming an even more accepting, and caring place. Gay, straight, black, or white, I think that the overwhelming attendance of the Symposium showed us that hate still exists, but at LVC we can respect the differences that make us unique.

Collin Straka is a senior economics major from Annville, Pa.

The session I was engaged in was called “The War Within” and the presenter was also the afternoon keynote speaker, Yewande Austin. She placed an emphasis on equality and being accepting of others. She also elaborated on what it means to be a leader when it comes to diversity and the importance of being a courageous follower.

She explained how imperative it is to create a community in which differences are embraced rather than segmented. She encouraged us to not be afraid to stand up for what we believe in and be the change not only this campus but the change the world needs to see.

This fight and cause runs way deeper than race, skin, and what the eye can encounter. It is not enough to be tolerant, we must be accepting and supportive of our peers. On Monday, January 20, 2014 I gained more hope for Lebanon Valley College. Nothing is impossible, and there are always going to be obstacles, but we can always overcome them.

Stephanie Agudelo is a sophomore criminal justice and psychology major from Philadelphia, Pa.