Rise Together! events at College honor MLK

by Amber Bhutta | 1/21/20 2:05am

After nearly a year of preparation, the Rise Together! celebration brought together the Dartmouth community yesterday to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 

According to vice president for institutional diversity and equity Evelynn Ellis explained, this year’s theme of “Rise Together!” was chosen to inspire optimism and hope. 

“The energy that we’re trying to put into it is to provide the opportunity for people to heal, to restore, to feel hopeful even though the news doesn’t give them a place to be hopeful,” Ellis said. “Given the situation that we as Americans find ourselves in right now, there is no leadership to help us rise. I think it is going to be the total responsibility of American people, ourselves, the general public — and I mean all groups — to pull ourselves back up.”

The series of events comprising the celebration began earlier this month with an exhibit in the Hood Museum and a performance by composer-violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain and spoken-word artist Marc Bathumi Joseph titled “The Just and the Blind” at the Hopkins Center. On Monday, history professor Matthew Delmont spoke at a breakfast for staff and faculty at the Hanover Inn and Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity hosted an annual candlelight vigil at the Shabazz Center for Intellectual Inquiry at 5 p.m. After the vigil, Spanish and Portuguese professor Kianny Antigua delivered the first keynote speech of the celebration.

“I felt strongly that we needed someone we know,” Ellis said of the selection process for the speaker. “I think you can rise together easier if you trust the people who are talking to you and trying to help you rise. I figured we need someone who was here.” 

Ellis said that although she had these descriptions in mind, she was unable to come up with a specific person until she noticed one of Antigua’s books by her office door one day.

“I saw [her book], and I said, ‘It’s been sitting in your face for weeks,’” Ellis said. “But the answer comes when you need it. [Antigua’s] whole approach to the world is so compassionate and broad because of her whole background — but also so creative that I thought, ‘Here is the person.’”

Antigua’s presentation, titled “Of Silence and Words,” touched on feminism, roots, self-love and “hope for a better world.” She said the celebration’s “Rise Together!” theme prevails in much of her work, which includes novels, poems, short stories and children’s books. 

“It’s imperative that we teach children that we cannot move through this world alone,” Antigua said. “We live in societies. We need families or friends or someone that we can count on, that we can talk to, that we can be friends with, that we can share our passions with. We cannot continue thinking and moving as though anything and everything that we do does not affect other people.”

Rev. Cornell William Brooks — a lawyer, Harvard professor and former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People — will give a second keynote speech on Jan. 26 at Rollins Chapel as part of an MLK Jr. multi-faith celebration hosted by the Tucker Center. 

“When people think of Dr. King, they often think of him as just Dr. King, but he was also Reverend Dr. King,” said dean and chaplain of the Tucker Center Rabbi Daveen Litwin. “We look for people who can bring in whatever the issues are today, but also be able to articulate meaningfully the importance of where faith and spirituality come into the underpinnings and lifting up of justice.”

The celebration’s programming will continue until the end of February and will include film screenings and presentations in conjunction with the Tucker Center and the Geisel School of Medicine. A full calendar of events is available online. 

Ellis said that through this programming, she hopes the community will fulfill one of the celebration’s primary goals: remembrance.

“The Civil Rights movement and the King era is not a period of time where we want people to start taking it lightly,” Ellis said. “It wasn’t just a simple part of our history then, and it’s not now. The struggle of African American people in this country — while very important to me and my people — is the struggle of people of color and poor people all over the world.”