Despite a day off for students, Ferris State’s Office of Multicultural Student Services will be hard at work this coming Monday.
The Office of Multicultural Student Services (OMSS) has been busy with preparations for FSU’s 29th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.
“We want to encourage students to take responsibility towards diversity and inclusion and social injustice,” said Michael Wade, assistant director of the OMSS and chair of the Celebration. “To create justice, to create inclusion, to make everyone feel [like] a part of this community—those are tangible things that every student, every person in this community needs to take with them, because we live in a diverse workplace. We have to embrace our differences and we also have to create common ground, create unity. This celebration promotes that. Dr. King promoted that with his life’s work—to recognize and respect someone ‘for the content of their character, not just for the color of their skin.’”
The OMSS has a variety of events and activities scheduled throughout the week in hopes of educating students and community members and sparking discussion on issues of racism and injustice, both past and contemporary. The Freedom March and the Student Tribute have been FSU’s two longest-standing traditions for MLK Day.
“The annual events are always my favorite,” said Wade. “To see everybody come out to the Freedom March; I love to see people come to the Student Tribute just to see what students are going to do, whether it be a performance, a dance, a song, multimedia presentations. Those annual events I really look forward to.”
Another more recent tradition Wade enjoys is the Tunnel of Oppression, an interactive multimedia exhibit which features displays designed and created by student volunteers from the Harmony Project. This year’s display will focus primarily on modern issues of oppression here in the United States, making connections between present and historical events. Some of the topics that will be addressed include Dr. King and his contemporaries, the growing Islamophobia since 9/11, issues relating to the Native American population, and socioeconomic status and questioning what it means to be poor.
“Reverend King fought so hard for ending oppression—especially for the black community—that I think it makes sense to bring these additional instances of oppression that we might not think about back to the forefront,” said Kate Van Ness, hall director liaison for the Harmony Project. “When we’re celebrating someone who fought for his entire life and died for what he believed in, we should be honoring that by continuing the fight. I think [we need to be] aware of our history and especially the stuff that we like to forget, like the internment of Japanese and Asian Americans during World War II, the horrible things that have happened to Native Americans, what is happening today to the LGBT population and to men and women of every color and creed and nationality. The only way we can get ourselves to a better society where we truly think of each other as equals is to start that now. For me—maybe it’s that I wear rose-colored glasses so often—I want to see a better world happen someday and why not have it start today?”
Van Ness and the many student volunteers have been working diligently on this year’s Tunnel of Oppression since September.
“We always bring something new,” said Brandon Jamison, a senior Social Work major who has participated in the Tunnel of Oppression for the last two years. “We try to talk about different topics. We have full control over whatever we want to put out. I think the great thing about that is [that] we can put out everything uncut. Anything that we find that is very important—whether or not we feel like it may be really, really sad or make you happy—but if it happened and it’s very important, it needs to be shown. I feel like it’s important for [students] to see that this is stuff that has happened or that is going on still now.”
Other events over the course of the week include the Feed-a-Family Food Drive, this year’s MLK service project; “Ferguson, What Would MLK Do?”, an open discussion on solutions to current social justice issues; “Culture Shock,” a five-star event featuring “racial hypnosis;” a charity basketball event and the 21st annual Faculty/Staff In-Service. A full schedule of MLK Celebration activities can be found online at http://www.ferris.edu/mlk.