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MLK Day speaker emphasizes community

MLK Day speaker emphasizes community

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, the presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church, quoted Martin Luther King, Jr. in his Jan. 15 speech in Rosse Hall: “We shall either learn to live together as brothers and sisters, or we will perish together as fools. The choice is ours: chaos or community.”

The College did not cancel classes on Jan. 15, instead welcoming students back from winter break with its annual Day of Dialogue event honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Class schedules were altered to allow faculty and students to attend events, as usual. Curry was this year’s keynote speaker.

President Sean Decatur introduced Curry before his speech in Rosse Hall. “Here at Kenyon, we often speak of the notion of community, but I would like to challenge us today to reach farther towards King’s vision for beloved community, in which human decency would prevail over hate, for society rooted in love, peace, justice and respect,” Decatur said.

Curry talked about the role of individuals in establishing a beloved community. “I am more and more convinced that being a member of the human race is not quite enough,” Curry said. He emphasized the importance of individuals uniting into a community; people are more than ‘individual collections of self-interest’ and should strive to achieve well-being for humanity as a whole.

After Curry spoke, a panel consisting of Priest-in-charge of Harcourt Parish and Chaplain Rachel Kessler, Professor of Religious Studies Ennis Edmonds and Eric Sutton III ’18 followed.

Each panelist discussed the importance of racial reconciliation.

“Our redemption comes in the form of the beloved community Martin Luther King spoke about,” Kessler said during the panel. “But living in that beloved community has to begin with those of us who have enjoyed great privilege and are complicit in ongoing systems of injustice and oppression — owning that and doing the hard work of turning away from it.”

The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, along with other faculty and community members, formed the planning committee for the Day of Dialogue.

In early 2016, as a Canterbury peer minister, Eva Warren ’19 worked with Kessler and other students to invite Curry to speak.

Going forward, Warren hopes to see more discussion about the injustices that minorities face.

“We don’t have tough conversations,” Warren said. “We are very fine with saying, ‘We are against these things, we are all for these things,’ but we don’t really talk about the why.”

Associate Provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Professor of English Ted Mason hopes students are inspired to reflect and act according to their own conscience. 

“Events like this are intended to be precipitating,” Mason said. “The goal is to precipitate campus thought and campus discussion.”

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