While children across the nation can easily recall the opening lines of Martin Luther King’s (MLK) I have a dream speech, the ongoing nature of that dream is often forgotten today. Last Friday’s Community Reflection focused on The Transformative Power of a Unified Dream, bringing together students, staff, and faculty with several discourses on the application of MLK’s dream almost fifty years after its inception.
The event kicked off a series of MLK events occurring in Kalamazoo, including the MLK Commemorative Walk, Readings and Reflections, and an MLK movie night in the Intercultural Center. Each speaker expounded upon the themes of transformation and unity, sharing with the audience their personal perspective on racial issues in the United States.
The Community Reflection began with a speech on what the dream looks like for Lizbeth Mendoza Pineda, who works in the Center for International Programs. The speaker’s parents were both Mexican immigrants who encouraged their daughter to achieve a college degree. Mendoza Pineda views “unified dreams as acts of resistance.”
Robert Davis, K’19, followed with the “hope that the seeds of power and resistance planted by MLK continue to grow.” Davis allowed the audience to create its own definitions for discourse, describing transformative as a manner of change, power as form of accountability, and resistance as an act love. Davis found his personal power and resistance in the form of writing, and he shared his poem Consider This My Apology with the group. Davis continued the theme of an ongoing vision of MLK’s legacy, encouraging all present to “continue dreaming, damn it.”
The Reflection then presented a new perspective, inviting Sam Weaver, K’17, to the stage to speak on racial justice through the lens of whiteness. Weaver explained the whitewashed history of the Civil Rights movement that schoolchildren in the U.S. receive, and emphasized that there are many more racial narratives that remain untold or still unfolding. She presented rugged individualism as a barrier to community and racial unity in our country today.
The final speaker was Natalia Carvalho-Pinto, the Director of the Intercultural Center on campus. The Director explained, “I don’t protest because that’s not my thing. That’s not the only way to resist.” Instead, she works with K students towards the internal processing of resistance, especially in terms of racial justice. Carvalho-Pinto finds her personal transformative power through her relationships with these students on their own journeys against oppression stating, “Resistance is happening here. It’s happening everyday. And I’m so grateful to be a part of that process.”