By: Erica Lampert ~Staff Writer~
Xavier’s Martin Luther King (MLK) week began Jan. 17 and will continue until Jan. 21. This event was started by the Center for Diversity and Inclusion in order to honor MLK and to continue his work for racial equality.
“I’m excited for this week,” Center for Diversity Inclusion Director Taj Smith said. “I’ve been doing MLK weeks for a very long time, so what I get excited about is making sure that everyone remembers the legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and all the other people that worked with him on these issues of racial justice that are still occurring today.” One of the first events of MLK week involves Xavier’s own police force and a select group of students. The event is titled “Right to Not Remain Silent.” Its goal is to offer insight on XUPD’s opinion’s about events in the media and racial violence targeting the Black community.
“During this event, we hope to build and improve the relationships with the police officers here at Xavier,” Smith said. The Center’s feature event will include its keynote speaker, social activist and scholar Rosa Clemente on Jan. 20. She will explain what she thinks it means to be a social activist, how Xavier students can implement her ideas and become one as well. She will discuss her story and how she came to care about social justice issues.
“She defines herself as an Africa- Latino, where she recognizes both of her heritages and the struggles within them. She plans to discuss these identities, along with several others during her presentation,” Smith said. The Center for Diversity and Inclusion will also host two leadup events for the major events it plans to host in February. The center will host an event on Jan. 21 involving Fr. Graham and two other Xavier staff members. The event, “Why It Mattered,” will discuss the Cincinnati Riots, including their impact and how they reflect what is occurring today in society.
“These riots beg the question of how were they are different from today, and are we continuing to deal with the same struggles?” Smith said. “This event is really here to give students a perspective on the institution, how Graham acted as an individual and why responding to racial issues is still so important today.”
The Cincinnati Riots of 2001 were triggered by the deaths of three black men by local police officers. These occurred during Graham’s early presidency, and the discussion will explain how he chose to handle the issue within the Cincinnati community. The Center’s final event will also be held on Jan. 21 and will discuss what it means to be white in today’s society, the meaning of white privilege and how people can respond to this concept. Two of Smith’s colleagues will speak to Xavier students about their experiences of white privilege, when they first identified themselves as white and their work in different racial settings.
Smith said the Center for Diversity and Inclusion hopes that this event expands in the following years and want students to get as involved as possible. All of these events lead up to other major events in February.
“Xavier students should be excited about this and see it as an opportunity to get involved in a weeklong program that involves these current issues of racial justice nationally as well as locally,” Smith said.
“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly” Letters from Birmingham Jail – Martin Luther Rosa Clemente’s speech takes place at 7 p.m. Jan. 20 in the Cintas Center Banquet Rooms. King Jr.