Capital University’s long-standing MLK Day of Learning tradition had a successful 31st year which included a keynote speaker, student presentations, and workshops regarding Martin Luther King’s legacy and social justice.
This year’s event was held via Zoom due to concerns about the Omicron variant.
The theme of the event was “This Little Light of Mine,” after an anthem popularized during the civil rights era.
According to Ralph Cochran, Capital’s executive director of diversity and inclusion, the theme was chosen because of its “ties to the civil rights movement, MLK himself and the power of music in the movement.”
Cochran described what he believes to be the beauty of the event.
“It is an event that keeps growing with time, and so people may think that it’s like a history lesson or something that they’ve heard a million times about Martin Luther King Jr., but it’s not at all,” Cochran said. “Each speaker brings something unique that’s typically time-relevant and the workshops themselves keep evolving with the current concerns of society.”
The keynote speaker this year was Hanif Abdurraqib, a poet, essayist, Capital grad and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio.
Abdurraqib discussed his experience growing up on the east side of Columbus, the role of artists in activism, and read an excerpt from one of his published books, “They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us.”
As well as Abdurraqib, many current Capital students gave presentations at the MLK Day of Learning.
Chiamaka Okafor, fourth-year nursing major, was among those who spoke at the event.
“My presentation was about desirability politics and how that basically affects black women… Basically what desirability politics is is kind of the politics behind who is being shown more love, who’s being appreciated and kind of like things like that,” Okafor said.
Okafor believes this event provides the opportunity for everyone to learn something new.
“I think it also helps everyone to take a step back and look at something from someone else’s perspective, and understand how this is affecting other people, specifically black people, and also how they can be more of an ally,” Okafor said.
If any students are interested in speaking at the event in the future, Okafor gave some insight into the process.
“There was information going out about who would want to speak and if there was any topics they would have, so me and Selah (co-presenter) decided that we would do this topic and we basically emailed the MLK committee and showed them what we wanted to do… and they basically gave us the go-ahead and we fully developed it and presented it,” Okafor said.
Aubri Jones, third-year education major, also gave a presentation at the event titled “From a Bird’s-Eye View”.
“We were just kind of asking everyone to step outside themselves during the presentation and kind of think about how they interact with others on a day-to day basis and just kind of [asking] … am I being the most authentic I can be? Do I have these implicit biases that I might need to address?” Jones said.
Jones’ presentation was inspired by her and her co-presenter’s experience of feeling like they are always viewed as the same due to them both being black, when in reality a lot of their experiences are different.
“We come from different backgrounds, but a lot of the time we feel like people always group us in the same category,” Jones said.
After attending her first MLK Day of Learning a few years back, Jones said that she was moved and knew she needed to get involved with the event in the future.
“I feel like every time I attend a workshop or even, you know, give a workshop it’s kind of like I’m learning something new and exciting and interesting,” Jones said. “There’s always something to be learned, there’s always a different perspective to be had, and I just think that’s such a beautiful thing.”
Although MLK Day of Learning was moved online the past two years due to the pandemic, it remains a treasured Capital tradition that everyone can learn something from.