By Monica Kriete
Kenyon College students and faculty gathered in Brandi Recital Hall to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with a Day of Dialogue at 4:10 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 17. The Day of Dialogue, organized by a volunteer committee of students and faculty led by Assistant Professor of English Ivonne Garcia, included remarks by President S. Georgia Nugent and Assistant Professor of Psychology Irene Lopez .Their words were followed by a panel discussion featuring Professor of American Studies Peter Rutkoff, Assistant Professor of English Jene Schoenfeld and Associate Dean of Students and Director of Multicultural Affairs A. Chris Kennerly, as well as students Christian Martinez-Canchola ’12, Julian Tancredi ’12 and Nancy Truong ’11.
Both the remarks and the panel centered thematically on the questions, “How far have we come? How far do we have to go?” The theme was inspired by a speech King gave at the St. Louis Freedom Rally in 1957 entitled A Realistic Look at the Question of Progress in the Area of Race Relations,which the committee made available to the Kenyon community via Moodle.
The panel began with a brief address by each panelist and then opened the floor to questions. The panelists and the audience raised a variety of issues, including the importance of recognizing the impact of class on the fight against racism; depictions of race and racism in popular media; the difficulty and importance of creating meaningful dialogue about race at the individual level, both at Kenyon and elsewhere; and the relative smallness of the Day of Dialogue and the possibility of increasing its scope in the future.
A short performance by the Gospel Choir, a prize drawing and dinner in Peirce Pub followed the panel. Several related events were planned to complement the Day of Dialogue, including a discussion at common hour on Tuesday, Jan. 18, the first-ever faculty anti-racism workshop on Saturday, Jan. 22 and a screening of 4 Little Girls,a documentary about the terrorist bombing of an African American church during the Civil Rights Movement. The screening will take place on Feb. 19 with Professors of Drama Thomas S. Turgeon and Jonathan Tazewell.
Attendee Greg Stark ’13 was impressed by the blend of faculty, administrative and student perspectives. “I particularly liked Chris Kennerly’s talk because of the way he blended stories with activism and really emphasized that … it’s about more than just race. It’s about poverty and race. It’s about everything and race,” Stark said. “What I will take away is the stories, and use that in the activism I’m already doing.”
Martinez-Canchola agreed, saying, “I think the students who went to the event took a lot out of it.” While Martinez-Canchola thought the event went well, she was disappointed with the turnout. “Last year and the year before, it was packed and there was just so much energy in the room.”
Martinez-Canchola has been involved with the Day of Dialogue since its inception three years ago. “My advisor is Professor Garcia, and so my first year at Kenyon, she was part of … the group of faculty that wanted to spearhead some kind of celebration or remembrance for Martin Luther King, and she asked me to be a part of it,” Martinez-Canchola said. Despite this year’s turnout, however, she has hope for next year. “It should be more of an institutional effort, too … or at least [have] some more support,” she said.