Photographs by Phyllis Graber Jensen and Josh Kuckens of the Bates Communications Office portray moments from the college’s 2017 MLK Day observance as the campus community and guests from near and far explored the theme “Reparations: Addressing Racial Injustices.”
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” — The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 1963
Khalil Gibran Muhammad, educator and author, delivered the keynote address titled "No Reparations Without Racial Education: Martin Luther King on the Tyranny of Ignorance." Muhammad is Professor of History, Race, and Public Policy at Harvard's Kennedy School and Suzanne Young Murray Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies.
Deploring "the tyranny of ignorance," Muhammad reminded his Bates audience that understanding America's history of racial injustice is the first step toward redressing that injustice.
"Since it is not OK to teach our children to deny the Jewish Holocaust, then why is it OK in far too many schools and homes to deny the centrality of slavery to the American story?" he wondered. Later, Muhammad said:
"Dr. King's vision of transforming America did not just turn on moral appeals for justice, advocacy for civil rights legislation, and a massive push for economic equity. What we've long overlooked was that before Dr. King had achieved the civil rights bills of 1964 and '65 . . . he envisioned our shared history and collective memory at the cornerstone of transforming America."
"These forces that threaten to negate life must be challenged by courage, which is the power of life to affirm itself in spite of life's ambiguities. This requires the exercise of a creative will that enables us to hew out a stone of home from a mountain of despair." — The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., from Strength to Love
Students have lunch with Khalil Gibran Muhammad in Commons, while down the hall, faculty, students, and staff discuss Craig Steven Wilder's book, Ebony and Ivory: Race, Slaver, and the Troubled History of America's Universities. Bates faculty, staff, and students honor King's work by sharing short original writings addressing his legacy, and excerpted texts that have inspired the readers.
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." — Martin Luther King Jr.
In a session titled "Wada-yaal" — Somali for "co-existence" — musician Hadith Bani-Adam told true stories through songs that promote peace and what he calls "deradicalization." Bani-Adam heard some of those stories while living in Kenya's huge Dadaab refugee camp, whose threatened closure this year would send nearly 300,000 residents back to chaos in Somalia. In a packed classroom, the soft-spoken Bani-Adam described his journey and philosophy — and he played his oud and sang, supported on percussion by Ness Smith-Davidoff and on viola by session host and faculty member Greg Boardman.
Watch the musicians perform in the video clip below.
This year’s traditional Benjamin Mays Debate gave student debaters from Bates and Morehouse a chance to argue addressing current inequalities vs. compensation for historical injustices
Founded by Bates students in 2010, Sankofa explores the history and diverse array of experience of the African diaspora through dance, music, theater, and spoken word.
As his son, Associate Dean of Students James F. Reese, listens proudly, the Rev. James F. Reese, age 93, tells sixth-graders at Martel Elementary School in Lewiston what it was like to meet Martin Luther King Jr. in 1960 and witness King's "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963.
While pastor of the First United Presbyterian Church at Knoxville College from 1959 to 1967, the elder Reese led sit-ins protesting Jim Crow laws and practices.
Reese's visit was part of the school's annual MLK Day Read-In.