The Office of Multicultural Student Services kicked off their 35th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration this week. On Jan. 19, 2021, OMSS held an event titled “The Other America” in which faculty, staff, students and the public discussed the racial divide and realities which still persist today.
At the beginning of the event participants were asked to reflect on what MLK’s legacy means to them. Vice president of student affairs Jeanine Ward-Roof started off the discussion by sharing a quote from one of MLK’s writings titled “The Purpose of Education” which said, “Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence to discern the truth from the false, the real from the unreal and the facts from fiction.”
Ward-Roof said during the Zoom event that this is what the foundation of education is all about. That it is even more relevant now because many people do not go out of their way to embrace truths and learn for themselves.
Throughout the event it was apparent that MLK’s teachings can apply to the way we live today more than ever. After watching a clip about the Selma March, which happened in March of 1965, students reflected on the similarities it had with the recent BLM protests.
Students involved in the event said that in both cases protestors were often met with brutal force and there did not seem to be an opportunity for peace. They said that determination made others listen to the protestor’s goals.
A clip of MLK’s speech “The Other America” was also played during the event. During the clip MLK spoke about the two Americas in which people lived. One of these Americas is beautiful and overflowing with prosperity, opportunity and resources. These people have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. One the other hand, the second America is in despair. Men do not have jobs, people live in slums and are poor, and the largest group in this America is African Americans.
2020 consisted of worldwide protests and although the main goal of the BLM movement is to end police brutality the issue of having two Americas is still relevant in the call for equality in protests today. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation the poverty rate of African Americans in 2019 was 16.8% higher than the rate of white Americans.
At the end of the event participants were asked about the struggle of making two Americas one and what they believe could be done to end racism.
“It is 2021 and we are still dealing with this issue of race,” Dr. Matthew Chaney, the director of multicultural student services, said. “When we talk about diversity the elephant in the room is still race and I think we will move that needle forward a lot quicker as we think about diversity, equity and inclusion and home in on the race factor.”
Chaney gave an example during the event of when he felt there had been a missed opportunity to speak about race.
“Oftentimes when I go to conferences and we are doing diversity work we want to kind of remove that element of race and not talk about race, but instead other forms of diversity. Those are still important, but we still have not adequately discussed race.”
President Eisler attended the event and closed off the ending by reflecting on the courage and bravery of those before. He said that after attending the meeting he felt it was also a stark reminder there is still so much more work that we still need to do. If you are interested in more of the events which the OMSS holds you can visit their page on ferris.edu or on Instagram @fsuomss.