Traditionally, members of the Madison community recognize Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day through service. This year, several UW-Madison organizations created an event focused on bringing everyone, especially the campus community, together.
About 100 attendees engaged in conversations in Varsity Hall about topics King often spoke of: inclusion, identity and social justice. Megan Miller, the assistant director of civic engagement and communications for the Morgridge Center for Public Service, who co-sponsored the event, said the organizers have wanted to host a non-traditional celebration such as this for a while.
“[We wanted to] focus on bringing people together and offer up a platform for some students to share their stories about how they’re living out the legacy of Dr. King today,” Miller said. “It’s a warm space to kind of think about how we want to be citizens and community members moving forward throughout the whole year and not just on one day.”
Donations for UW-Madison’s food pantry The Open Seat were accepted throughout the event. A social justice art project run by Wheelhouse Studios was also open to attendees. African American Campus and Community Liaison Karla Foster said this continued the idea of building a community.
“We wanted to pull out people’s creative side and drive home what Dr. King was talking about which is establishing community and relationships, things like equality and justice,” Foster said.
Vice Provost for Diversity and Climate and Chief Diversity Officer Patrick Sims and four student scholars—some who performed spoken word pieces while others told personal stories—took the podium and discussed their connections to King’s ideas. A reflection activity was held to open these discussions to attendees.
In her closing remarks, Dean of Students Lori Berquam pulled ideas from King’s “Three Dimensions of a Complete Life” and talked about the importance of service.
“We consider [Martin Luther King, Jr. Day] a day on, not a day off,” Berquam told The Daily Cardinal. “I hope the event brings the whole ethos of care and service. In a time when our nation, our world, is struggling we all have to come together. I think that's what Dr. King wanted today to be.”