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Thursday, April 18, 2024
The Observer

University celebrates MLK Day

This year, the University is taking new steps to celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. That effort began last night with the beginning of the first ever Walk the Walk Week, a series of events designed to promote diversity and inclusion at Notre Dame.

The week kicked off Sunday night with a march and candlelit prayer service in the Main Building, followed by a late night breakfast in South Dining Hall.

20160114, 011416, Hesburgh Mosaic, Michael Yu, South Dining Hall
Michael Yu | The Observer

“The march marks — quite literally — the University community's first steps in coming together that day,” a University-wide email said. “The hope is that our collective reflection on the values that are so central both to King's legacy and to Notre Dame's mission will continue in various settings throughout the days, weeks and months to come.”

The President’s Office, Diversity Council, Multicultural Student Programs and Services, the Department of Africana Studies and the Institute for Latino Studies, in addition to a number of other clubs and departments on campus, will sponsor a variety of events over the course of the week.

“So many people worked together to make this happen,” senior Chizo Ekechukwu, chair of Diversity Council, said. “A lot of different groups throughout campus came together in collaboration to create conversations about this topic.”

This year, for the first time, Notre Dame cancelled all classes and other campus activities from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Students, faculty and staff with tickets may attend a luncheon and panel discussion in the Joyce Center during this time. All other members of the community may eat a special meal at the dining halls during this time by presenting a Notre Dame ID.

Senior Rachel Wallace, a member of Diversity Council, said she thinks Walk the Walk Week will provide the Notre Dame community with more opportunities to reflect on the meaning of King’s legacy.

“There’s been a lot of conversation about why we don’t have Martin Luther King Day off because we should be honoring him,” she said. “The whole week makes the celebration about something bigger than just the holiday. The best way to honor him is living out his ideas.”

Senior Ray’Von Jones, Student Union representative to Diversity Council, said she is especially excited to listen to a presentation from Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, on Monday night in DeBartolo Hall.

“What better way to understand an emerging movement, something that’s so widespread at this point, than hearing it from the people who cofounded it?” Jones said. “Hopefully the talk will help people better understand the significance of the week in general.”

Throughout the rest of the week, the University will host various events and panels to highlight the themes of diversity and inclusion, both in the past and the present.

“I think people tend to think that diversity and inclusion aren’t an issue that they need to be involved in,” Jones said. “It’s important not to look at the Civil Rights Movement as a static thing, because people are still fighting for civil rights, and there are still people who lack civil rights.

“The week challenges us to live out what Dr. King was working for and what so many other civil rights leaders were and are working for.”

Ekechukwu said the week is a chance for Notre Dame students to focus on little things they can do on a daily basis to make Notre Dame a better place.

“Martin Luther King Jr. is someone that so many people really respect. He’s an iconic figure, but I feel like a lot of times his words and what he stands for can get lost,” she said. “ … I’m really hoping Walk the Walk Week will open people’s eyes about things and help them take a more active role to make Notre Dame a more inclusive place.”

Wallace said she thinks Walk the Walk Week will continue in future years.

“We’re stepping into new territory,” she said. “There’s a lot of visions that haven’t been incorporated yet and things that I’m sure we can do better every year. I think this is a great step in the right direction, but I would love to see this week continue to grow.”

The hashtag #NDwalkthewalk will be used on social media throughout the week to engage students in the conversations about diversity and inclusion, Wallace said.

“How are you going to walk the walk? What’s your next step?” she said. “That’s the theme of the week — challenging people to act or get involved.”

Jones said she hopes Notre Dame students can send a message and inspire other schools to create conversations about civil rights in today’s age.

“Hopefully people will come out and support and engage in the events,” she said. “I think people will walk away with more motivation to improve our community and get more involved, realizing what struggles were in the past and what we are still struggling with.”

University President Fr. John Jenkins has been involved with the organization of Walk the Walk Week, Ekechukwu said, embodying the University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

“Fr. Jenkins is going to be at all the events,” she said. “He’s really put this on his priority list when he’s a very busy man. It says a lot about his intentions and his goals for the University. … It shows that this is something Notre Dame believes in.”

A full schedule of the week's events can be found online at