On Jan. 18, Sacred Heart University put on its annual Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Commemoration, presented by SHU’s Office for Inclusive Excellence and Multicultural Affairs. The theme for this year’s event was “The Power of Community,” representing the importance of not just talking about being allies, but listening to and actively advocating for marginalized communities.
The commemoration is hosted annually to bring students and staff together to discuss the triumphs and trials that are recognized on MLK day every year.
“This event impacts the student body in terms of representation for diversity, equity, and inclusion in a positive manner,” said SHU student, Benjamin Bello, who attends the event annually and sings in the SHU Gospel Choir, which performed at the event.
“We organize the MLK celebration every year to ensure that his messages and the associated calls to action are not lost,” said Maurice Nelson, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. “It is important for us to reevaluate his life of service, advocacy, and activism to inform how we live out our institutional mission for social justice.”
University President, Dr. John Petillo, opened the event with words remembering King and encouraging the SHU community to honor his faith and excellence. He spoke of his hopes that SHU as a whole embodies traits that would make King proud.
This year’s guest speaker at the event was Albert Lee, an associate professor of Music and Director of Equity, Belonging, and Student Life at Yale University. Lee spoke on the importance of taking action in order to create positive change while drawing from his own journey, as well as creative writings from Langston Hughes.
Lee not only spoke at the event, but “is a phenomenal vocal artist and performer,” said Bello. “I became inspired to work on my vocal tactics and techniques to become a strong and more affluent singer.”
Bello also discussed what this holiday and celebration truly meant to him.
“Personally, this event means that I get to strengthen my courageousness around campus and it has opened me up to talk more about some of the stories I have witnessed, especially with diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging,” Bello said. “I have not only a voice and a message for the community about the event, but that I also have a connection which is promoting and serving the greater community.”
Nelson found personal connections to what was discussed during the Commemoration.
“As a black man, I am inspired by the leadership and tenacity of Rev. Dr. MLK, Jr. I am inspired about his reckoning with not being infallible and by his pursuit for constant learning and growth,” Nelson said. “This has impacted me personally and professionally, so the event challenges me to consider ways to better honor and continue his work.”