Speakers headline MLK Week events at Saint Michael’s

January 7, 2016

Two provocative and nationally prominent speakers on issues of race, identity and responsibility in America will headline a week of activities at Saint Michael’s College Jan. 25-29 to honor Martin Luther King Jr.

Other events for the week will be student-focused discussions of race and social justice issues and diversity, a faculty workshop on creating inclusive spaces in the classroom and on campus, and finally on Friday, January 29, a Burlington-wide Poetry Slam Competition hosted by nationally recognized guest poets

Rosa Clemente, (top photo at right) a community organizer, independent journalist and hip-hop activist and one of the nation’s most dynamic and engaging public intellectuals and speakers, will be the main speaker for the 24th Annual MLK JR. Convocation in the Chapel of Saint Michael the Archangel on Monday, Jan. 25 at 4:30 p.m. Her topic will be: “What must be done? Addressing the intersection of power, oppression, identity and responsibility.”

Two days later on Wednesday evening, Jan. 27 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Dion Student Center Roy Event Room, the week’s Keynote Speaker will be Robin D’Angelo (bottom photo at right), an author and Westfield State College professor whose numerous books and articles address issues of race and whiteness in America.

D’Angelo’s scholarship is concerned with the question, “What does it mean to be white in a society that proclaims race is meaningless, yet is deeply divided by race?” Her focus at Westfield is making sure that future teachers understand the society in which they teach and power of their role. Her talk, as a self-identified white scholar, will analyze “white socialization that enables us to understand how race shapes our lives.”

According to D’Angelo’s promotional materials, “her work demystifies what makes racism so hard for whites to see, identifies common white racial patterns, and addresses popular white narratives that work to deny racism. With remarkable skill she helps participants see the ‘water’ that obscures how racism works in our daily lives – the miseducation about what racism actually is, ideologies such as individualism and colorblindness; defensiveness; and the tendency to protect (rather than expand) our worldviews.”

Before her Monday Convocation talk, Rosa Clemente also will address faculty and staff at a noon luncheon Jan. 25 in the Dion Roy Room about “The impact of inclusive classrooms and professors on students’ self-worth and academic performance.”

The main event on Tuesday, Jan. 26 will be a Student Forum in the Dion Roy Room from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., led by student organizations involved with issues of social justice, on the topic “Does Race Really matter? Struggling to make connections that matter.”

Wednesday “Food for Thought” discussion in the Alliot Hall student dining area from 11:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. will address such topics as:

  • “Are issues of diversity and inclusion important for your education?
  • “Is the College responsible for preparing you to life and work in a diverse society and interconnected world?”
  • What is the College doing to uphold this responsibility?”

Part of the discussion will be about the first Saint Michael’s Diversity Newsletter and why diversity is important for the College community.

The day after her keynote Robin D’Angelo will address faculty and staff on Thursday, Jan. 28,  at a noon luncheon in Dion’s Roy Event Center, where her topic will be “White Fragility: Why it’s so hard to talk to White People about Racism.”

This year’s MLK Convocation is being dedicated to the late Dorothy “Dot Ann” Williams, who served as the College’s first Director of Minority Student Affairs for about a decade in the 1990s. Williams, who died October 12, 2015, also served on Gov. Howard Dean’s Human Rights Commission for Vermont and taught Saint Michael’s courses in African studies and history.

Reuben Jackson, the host of Friday’s 7 p.m. Poetry Slam Competition in the Dion Roy Event Room, is a poet whose work has appeared in over 30 anthologies and in a volume entitled Fingering the Keys. He is currently the host of Friday Night Jazz on VPR. He was curator of the Duke Ellington Collection at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. for 20 years. His music reviews have been published in the Washington Post, Jazz Times, on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and in other journals and magazines.

Guest poets at the Slam will be Mic-Andre Constable, an up and coming performing artist from Florida, NY, by way of Jamaica, Queens, He’s directed, produced and performed in various productions of poetry shows for his club Verbal Asylum through his Alma mater Dominican College. He has also made appearances on the Nuyorican Poet’s Café stage and is a resident performer in The Bronx, NY’s “live from the Underground.” Darius Simpson is an African-American poet-activist born and raised in Akron, OH. He is 23 years old and working toward his bachelor’s degree in political science at Eastern Michigan University. Darius is an award-winning poet and community leader, globally recognized for his spoken word and work in the community. Razjea Bridges is a 19-year-old spoken-word artist born in Flint, MI. She attends Eastern Michigan University majoring in psychology and English. With Raise It Up! Youth Art and Awareness, she competed at the Brave New Voices festival in Philadelphia and Atlanta. She has organized community events and discussions centered in intersectional social justice and youth empowerment.

To register for this Poetry Slam event, contact Kimoi Seale: kseale@smcvt.edu. All winners will receive a medal. For information about all other activities contact Moise St. Louise, Associate Dean of Students/ Director of Multicultural Student Services, at mstlouis@smcvt.edu, 802-654-2663.

credit: photo of Reuben Jackson by Stephanie Seguino

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