Rollins Honors Martin Luther King, Jr. With Weekend Celebration

January 20, 2009

To pay tribute to the life and dreams of Martin Luther King, Jr., Rollins College hosted a weekend of events centered around King’s message of leadership, education and social justice.

“This was an opportunity to reflect on injustice embedded in our true history, while allowing the Rollins community to come together to build one community through leadership education and social justice,” said Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs Mahjabeen Rafiuddin. “For all of the events, the turnout was very heartwarming and a great indication of how we can fulfill the dream/legacy of Dr. King in our Rollins corner.”

The MLK Celebration Weekend began Saturday, Jan. 17 with a showing of the popular blockbuster movie “Crash.” Faculty, students and the community came together to view the movie and participated in a dialogue around the topic of diversity and social justice.

Both Saturday and Sunday, students in the Rollins Improv Players (RIP) group portrayed a “Tunnel of Oppression,” during which they acted out scenes of racism, homophobia, body image, immigration and anti-Semitism and discussed their personal experiences with these issues.

"I did not meet one student who wasn't challenged to take their next step in understanding diversity with some students showing a willingness to take actions on ending oppression," said Mental Health Counselor Student Intern Tiffany K. Griffin, who assisted at the event. "I was inspired by the depth of thoughtful responses and the willingness of attendees to listen to other people's experiences. It was an amazing opportunity for people of all backgrounds, race, gender, sexuality and religion to have an open discussion on diversity and oppression."

Sunday evening, Rollins hosted an Open Mic welcoming poets in the community to share their work in a coffeehouse atmosphere as refreshments were served.

On Monday, the last night of the MLK Celebration, members of Rollins and the surrounding community attended a candlelight vigil honoring King. Members of the Rollins community including President Lewis Duncan, several students and faculty spoke at the event. Their messages focused on the importance of social justice, education and leadership as they relate to Rollins’ mission of global citizenship and responsible leadership. The keynote speaker was Director of Public Affairs for the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority Carolyn Fennell, a prominent Central Florida businesswoman, motivational speaker and lecturer. Fennell spoke of her days as a little girl, living in the segregated South.

"I am so honored by this opportunity to celebrate the life of a man who guided much of my college days and indeed my adult life," said Fennell. "As a child, I drank out of white water fountains at the defiance of the general manger of the local Woolworth store, also called the 'dime store,' in Lake County. Years later, I marched in the civil rights marches much too frequently for my mother’s concern and fear in downtown Tallahassee, for the right to sit at a dime store counter."

Fennell encouraged all to consider what they could do to encourage change in the world and finished her remarks with a poem by Maya Angelou which ended with the words:

Here, on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes, and into
Your brother's face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
Good morning.

"And with that belief," said Fennell, "yes, we can." The event and weekend came to a close with the lighting of candles and live performance of “Amazing Grace.”

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