GV Office of Multicultural Affairs celebrates MLK Day


Courtesy to GVSU

Olivia Fellows, Associate Print Editor

Jan. 18 is known around the United States as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which celebrates the life of the revered pastor and civil rights activist from Atlanta, Georgia. Each year, Grand Valley State University celebrates Dr. King’s life and work through inviting speakers to campus and creating events that engage with students, remember civil rights history and commemorate the strides of civil rights leaders like Dr. King and others.

GVSU’s Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) is one department that helps oversee many of the MLK Day plans, and this year is no different. OMA provides a variety of opportunities for student and employee engagement through their Heritage Celebrations, Laker Connections Student Success Programs, Conversations of Color dialogue spaces, keynote speakers, trainings, workshops and more.

This year, COVID-19 has impacted in-person events university-wide, and this year’s planned speaker event has been pushed online. Additionally, because of COVID-19 restrictions, there will not be a silent march on campus, as is normally held.

Notably, however, GVSU is hosting White House correspondent for PBS NewsHour and political contributor for NBC and MSNBC Yamiche Alcindor, who will give a virtual presentation for the West Michigan community on January 18.

The recipient of the White House Correspondents’ Association Aldo Beckman Award for Overall Excellence in White House Coverage as well as the 2020 National Association of Black Journalists’ Journalist of the Year Award, Alcindor has become a steady voice in journalism. She has written extensively on the intersection of race and politics and covered the impact of President Trump’s policies on the working-class, immigration, and breaking news coming out of Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Alcindor’s presentation, “The Legacy of MLK: Purpose, Truth and Justice,” will be presented via Zoom webinar.

Bobby Springer, the co-chair of the MLK Committee at the OMA, said she believes that the holiday is a time for students, faculty and staff to reflect on the life of Dr. King, but more importantly, measure the progress that has been made over the past 53 years since Dr. King’s death.

“Celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. King and sharing the remarkable and historic messages with every generation connects the past with the present,” Springer said. “King’s legacy is a message that all should reflect on, especially since inequality for all is still real in this current day. We know that silence can be awaken when we show up and perhaps, we will hear something, see something, or experience something that enable us to understand why the theme continues to be ‘A Day On, Not A Day Off.’”

GVSU faculty leaders work hard to ensure that students of marginalized identities feel safe and welcomed at the university. There are five programs that operate under Laker Connections Student Success Program: Laker Familia, Black Male Scholars, Black Excellence, Native Student Success Program and the Asian Student Achievement Program. The program goals are to create an environment where students can achieve their full potential at GVSU while being their full authentic selves.

OMA Assistant Director Juanita Davis said that faculty members within the African and African-American studies program, History Department, College of Education, Hospitality and Tourism Management, English Department, School of Communication and the entire Black Faculty Staff Association have been instrumental to the success of many GVSU students.

“Each of our program coordinators works with their student programs to create events and initiatives that will meet their specific needs, and the common goal is student success,” Davis said. “Our students have been provided support and mentorship inside and outside of the classroom and their contributions have impacted the retention of our students.”

Although COVID-19 has altered some plans for this year’s MLK Day Commemoration events, OMA faculty are confident that many will engage and continue to celebrate the important holiday online.

Jen Hsu-Bishop, Interim Director of the OMA, shared that although a lot of things happening at GVSU are different this year due to the pandemic, it’s important to stay involved in what’s happening, and to remember to reflect.

“Every person at GVSU has a role to play to make sure that our campus lives into its values of inclusion and equity, and participating in Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Week events are just one of many ways we can do this throughout the year,” Hsu-Bishop said. “We encourage students to participate in spaces that challenge them to think critically about themselves and the world around them. There are so many ways, big and small, that each of us can advocate for justice and equity. One of the most important things we can do is to keep learning and taking action.”

For students wondering how to connect with the OMA and get involved, there are many opportunities for students on and off campus. All students are invited to participate in the upcoming Heritage Celebration events, the Laker Connections Student Success Programs, Conversations of Color dialogue spaces, keynote speakers, trainings, and workshops. You can learn more about the OMA’s Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Week events on their informational page.