This past week, our community celebrated Diversity Dialogues and the wide spectrum that exists on our campus and in our world.
We spent time in history contemplating what Martin Luther King Jr. would be saying in today’s world, discussing micro aggressions and the negative implications that they hold for people, taking moments to pray for the end to hatred, laying out what the beloved community is and what that means for our community and finally a celebration of the vulnerability of being our most true selves.
Our celebration of differences in our community does not come at a time that is convenient, but it comes at the time that we need it the most. The theme of the MLK Day march this year was ‘Raise Up our Youth,’ a theme that I believe we need to take to heart on our campus.
For young people, power seems distant and unobtainable; changing the world doesn’t seem like a practical vision.
When I read about the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, I see a committed and focused effort from young people to positively change the world that they are in. Some people could argue that this comes with a changing of times – that the challenges we’re facing in 2015 are radically different than the struggles of a post-14th amendment world.
While I agree in part, the work of Bayard Rustin, John Lewis, Ella Baker and Martin Luther King Jr. was never intended to die with them. Young people serve as the catalyst for social change in every historical movement, often sparking the revolutionary change that must happen for everyone to be included in the community.
Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” We have to be realistic about the state of our campus climate as a student body and with that honesty comes the notion that more and more students are disengaged from social issues affecting the wider world.
#blacklivesmatter barely touched our campus, the Prayer Vigil to End Hatred – typically an event attended by close to 100 students on campus – had possibly 20 students attend and similar events throughout the year have also received low attendance.
I struggled with writing about this in my column this week, but while reflecting on the words of MLK on being silent, I thought I would dedicate my column to the subject matter.
As university students, we are attending Gannon to receive an academic, formal education to be trained in our respected fields: from biology to accounting all the way to political science. Our campus programs are diverse as a liberal arts institution, something that is a beautiful opportunity. The beauty of diversity comes in the celebration of differences, but it becomes lost when that diversity is internalized and never given back.
James Baldwin famously said, “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”
We must reconnect to our history wherever that may be. We must reclaim the power that we possess as young people with our energy and our angst. We are college-educated, young people with infinite possibilities to change our world into the beloved community that it has every opportunity to become.
There is never a perfect time for change, no one will hand you the justice that our world so badly needs. It’s up to us as a community to ring in a new generation of leaders to make love in action a reality.