‘Poor People’s Campaign’ is theme of MLK Week activities

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January 9, 2020

Students, faculty and staff at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University have a chance to turn back the clock and follow one of the final initiatives of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Poor People’s Campaign” is the theme of activities Jan. 20-24 at CSB and SJU that celebrate the life and legacy of King.

“The week’s events will provide us all an opportunity to think about, engage with, and commit to doing what we – individually and collectively – must to continue the work of reducing inequities that still persist to this day,” said Brandyn Woodard, director of Intercultural and International Student Services and coordinator of Intercultural LEAD at CSB and SJU.

The Poor People's Campaign (also known as the Poor People's March on Washington, D.C.) was a 1968 effort to gain economic justice for all poor people in the United States. It was organized by King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and carried out under the leadership of Ralph Abernathy in the wake of King's assassination on April 4, 1968, according to Wikipedia.

The campaign demanded economic and human rights for poor Americans of diverse backgrounds. After presenting an organized set of demands to Congress and executive agencies, participants set up a 3,000-person protest camp on the Washington Mall, where they stayed from May 12-June 24.

Here’s a look at the local activities, by day. All the events are free and open to the public.

Monday, Jan. 20

A keynote address and convocation will highlight Martin Luther King Day. There are no classes at CSB and SJU this day.

RicardoRicardo Levins Morales delivers the morning keynote at 11 a.m. at the Centenary Room (room 264), Quadrangle Building, SJU. According to his website, Morales describes himself as a “healer and trickster organizer disguised as an artist.” He was born into the anti-colonial movement in his native Puerto Rico and was drawn into activism in Chicago when his family moved there in 1967.

Morales left high school early and worked in various industries, and over time began to use his art as part of his activism. This activism has included support work for the Black Panthers and Young Lords to participating in or acting in solidarity with farmers, environmental, labor, racial justice and peace movements.

His artwork will be on display from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Great Hall, SJU. Associate professor of art Rachel Melis will be doing family-friendly printing from noon-2 p.m. in the Great Hall. 

At 4 p.m., a convocation featuring Pastor James Alberts II of the Higher Ground Church of God in St. Cloud will be held at 4 p.m. at Escher Auditorium, CSB. Alberts will speak on “Are We Still Dreaming? Living WOKE in a World Built on a Dream.” James

This follows King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” address, and challenges participants how to be “WOKE” and own the responsibility of living in a time where we can do what our forefathers could only dream about.

In addition to those two events, a Link Bus will take students to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast and Day of Service, sponsored by St. Cloud State University, at the River’s Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud (although the breakfast is free, you must register for it). The event features a keynote speech by Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the Obama Foundation. The bus leaves at 7:15 a.m. from Sexton Commons, SJU, and at 7:30 a.m. from the Gorecki Center, CSB. Space is limited; please RSVP for the bus.

Tuesday, Jan. 21

“Coloring Our Community” is a student-led conversation dealing with colorblindness and white privilege; race in education; mass incarceration; immigration; being an ally/anti-racist; and intersectionality. It runs from 5-6:30 p.m. in Brother Willie’s Pub, SJU.

The Tournées Film Festival opens with a showing of the movie “I Am Not Your Negro” at 7 p.m. in Pellegrene Auditorium, SJU. The Oscar-nominated documentary is narrated by Samuel L. Jackson and explores the continued peril America faces from institutionalized racism, according to the movie’s website. The film festival is sponsored by the Languages and Cultures Department at CSB/SJU.

In 1979, James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent describing his next project, “Remember This House.” The book was to be a revolutionary, personal account of the lives and successive assassinations of three of his close friends - Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and King. At the time of Baldwin's death in 1987, he left behind only 30 pages of his manuscript. Filmmaker Raoul Peck envisioned the book Baldwin never finished, and the result is a radical, up-to-the-minute examination of race in America, using Baldwin's original words and flood of rich archival material.

Wednesday, Jan. 22

Corrie Grosse, assistant professor of environmental studies at CSB and SJU, and students will lead a presentation entitled “Climate Justice for a Revolution in Values” at 5 p.m. in room 204, Gorecki Center, CSB.

Thursday, Jan. 23

Politics and a Pint and Theology on Tap features Catholic theologian and activist Eric Martin at 4:30 p.m. at Brother Willie’s Pub, SJU.

Jason Kessler - one of the organizers of the August 2017 white supremacist and neo-Nazi rally at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville - was doing research at the at the UVA law school's library in April 2018. When he returned a week later, a small crowd confronted him by standing near the office where he was studying.

Martin decided to enter the office in the law library and quietly sit across the table from Kessler, according to the National Catholic Reporter newspaper.

When a law school administrator asked Martin to leave and he refused, university police arrested him and led him out of the library in handcuffs.

Artist John Hitchcock will talk about his exhibit, “Bury the Hatchet: Prayer for My P’ah-Be,” at 6 p.m. at the Saint John’s Art Center. His multi-media exhibit opens Jan. 16 and runs through Feb. 28. It combines his interests in printmaking, rock 'n’ roll and Kiowa and Comanche history into one visual expression that offers a re-telling of the narrative of the American frontier. The visual and sound recordings in the exhibition work together to challenge western perspectives of the supremacy of the written word by reinforcing Indigenous views of oral history passed on from generation to generation through storytelling.

Hitchcock will then perform with his band at 9:30 p.m. at Brother Willie’s Pub, SJU.

Friday, Jan. 24

MalcolmMalcolm London performs at 8 p.m. at the Gorecki Family Theater, Benedicta Arts Center, CSB.

London is an internationally recognized Chicago poet, activist, educator and musician. London brings vim and vigor to his energetic performances tackling tough contemporary issues head on.

As an organizer, London was part of a historic youth delegation to the United Nations in Geneva to address police violence in Chicago. Deeply interested in working on ways to improve the national education system, London regularly visits high schools, youth jails, colleges and communities to work with students on writing workshops and performances. London also runs the largest youth open mic in Chicago alongside his friend Chance The Rapper. He sees art as the intersection between justice and poetic imagination.

The Art Department will be hosting a letterpress workshop with John Hitchcock, Roberto Mata Torres and CSB/SJU Associate Professor of Art Rachel Melis from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Welle Book Arts Studio (room A62), Benedicta Arts Center, CSB. Attendees will learn the basics of using a letterpress to print plastic plates. It is open to the public and attendees will be able to watch as prints are made and take one home with them.