Call and response

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At Denison, celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s work takes more than just one day in January. Students gathered in Slayter auditorium on Jan. 23 to begin the four-day celebration under the theme, “Call and Response,” which started with service projects organized by the Alford Center for Service Learning.

The projects took students to a men’s shelter to cook and serve dinner, to make blankets for the Salvation Army, to bake dog biscuits and collect supplies for the Humane Society, to fill backpacks for children in need, and to create MLK lesson plans for high schoolers and adults with developmental disabilities.

By Monday afternoon (Jan. 27) the service projects had been wrapped up and the campus community made its way to Swasey for the official Martin Luther King Jr. celebration, which called on students, faculty, and staff to become activists and to incorporate service into their lives.

After appearances by Denison University Drum and Dance, Tehillah, the Hilltoppers, and the Denison Dazzlers dance troupe, Denison alumna Kelly Brown Douglas ’79, a professor of religion at Goucher College, took the mic for the keynote, “King’s Dream in the Age of Obama.” In her address, she recalled watching King’s “I Have a Dream” speech on television and hearing “We Shall Overcome” for the first time. “After that day, every time I heard the name Martin Luther King, Jr.,”  she said, “my 6-year-old ears perked up.”

Even with the hope that King brought to the Civil Rights Movement, we are living in an age of a “dream yet to come,” said Brown Douglas, as she cited recent statistics like the fact that whites enjoy 22 times more wealth than blacks, and that the unemployment rate for blacks is twice as high as it is for whites.

Even so, Brown Douglas continues to see hope. “While it may not be a dream fulfilled, it is not a failure. While it may be deferred, it is not defunct. … Because King dared to dream 50 years ago, let us dare today to carry that dream forward.”

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