MLK Day inspires community to serve and reflect

edited.Backpack_MarkCooley (2)edited.MLKReadIn_GroupPhoto_MacKenzieBradyBy Erica Quinones

Elm Staff Writer

Students, faculty, and Chestertown residents gathered in Decker Theater for the Martin Luther King Jr. Read-In on Monday, Jan. 21. The event was organized by the Black Student Union and Students Talking About Race (S.T.A.R.), an organization of Kent County Public School students dedicated to inspiring “open dialogue and self-reflection” in the community. 

During the Read-In, the audience was encouraged to find a quote from King and read it. Lead by the members of S.T.A.R., the readers shared excerpts spanning his career, from his college papers to his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. The readers themselves consisted of many age groups, including elementary schoolers and Washington College faculty.

The many readers brought varying interpretations of the excerpts. Some, like one Kent County High School student, focused on King’s call for unity and its role in S.T.A.R.’s mission.

“I feel like that’s what my fellow members and I do in our community, and I’m really proud to be connected in some way to Martin Luther King by doing what we do,” she said.

Others, like President of WC, Kurt Landgraf, focused on King’s definition of education and its application at the College. 

Landgraf quoted an excerpt from King’s “The Purpose of Education,” in which King says, “the function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.” 

Landgraf said that “is what Washington College is all about.”

Erneatka Webster, the advisor of BSU, read from King’s “Where Do We Go From Here,” focusing on unity in combatting inequality. 

“We all are here together, it is important for us to be together as one society,” Webster said, “Love each other, support each other, no matter what’s going on in the world, because we all need each other.”

Alumnus and Lecturer in Sociology, Dr. Benjamin Kohl Jr., reflected on his experience at WC in the early eighties compared to today.

“When I went to school here, there were three students of color and two of them were from Africa,” Kohl said. “So, the organization that happened to bring this day forward makes me proud to be part of this school.”

Further back still, Chestertown native Airlee Johnson reflected on growing up in 1960s Chestertown and seeing the first black WC student.

“It was a source of pride because it had just never happened,” Johnson said, “We needed the sense of pride at that time.” 

According to Johnson, there were some changes that occurred with the student’s arrival. 

“Some of the Washington College students knew how unfair things were. They went outside of their realm and they started tutoring the students at Garnett High School. Because of that, many of the students saw a privileged life that we had never saw before,” Johnson said.

To celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., WC also hosted a free lunch for local students; a volunteer event sponsored by the Caring for Kids Backpack program, which provides lunch to school students without access; and a concert in Hynson Lounge featuring the M.S.G. Acoustic Blues Trio.

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