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Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024
The Observer

Walk the Walk Week celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day, encourages positive community-building

Next week, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion will host the University’s seventh annual Walk the Walk Week to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The week-long observation will feature a student government panel discussion, a candlelight prayer service and numerous lectures and performances addressing issues of racism and inequality and the experiences of Black students on campus.

Additionally, this year marks Notre Dame’s first full observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day as an official University holiday for students, faculty and staff after a resolution passed unanimously in the student senate in August.

Cassidy Ferrell, a current senior and the director of the Department of Student Empowerment, played a significant role in promoting and advocating for the resolution. Along with student government, her department aided the Office of the President in planning many of the upcoming week’s events.

“This year Walk the Walk Week is themed around promoting community building and allyship,” Ferrell said. “We sought to create opportunities for the ND campus community to engage with topics of race, social justice and [diversity, equity and inclusion] by creating programming that engages the local community, amplifies diverse communities on campus and provides opportunities for allyship.”

The week’s events kick off Sunday at the women’s basketball game against North Carolina when faculty and staff members working to promote diversity and inclusion will be recognized at halftime.

In full observance of the holiday, Monday will feature no formal events, but students are encouraged to use it as a day of reflection.

“We hope that a full recognition of MLK Day prompts the Notre Dame community to reflect on the impact civil and human rights initiatives have had on our country and on their lives particularly,” Ferrell said. “We hope this week will bring a sense of urgency for continued activism in racial and social justice on campus and around the country.”

Programming will continue Tuesday with a live recording of the Black@ND podcast at 7 p.m. in the Patricia George Decio Theatre at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.

Emorja Roberson, a doctoral student pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts in choral conducting, is the founder and host of the weekly podcast which discusses the experiences and challenges of Black Notre Dame students and alumni.

He explained that the podcast episode will discuss what it means to be Black in America and will feature leaders from Black student groups including Wabruda, Shades of Ebony, the African Student Association and the Black Graduate Student Association.

He hopes the live event will allow for an authentic conversation about the diversity of Black experiences. 

“Live is best,” Robinson said. “It is unedited and it’s raw. The panelists are unaware of what questions we will ask and … it gives the students the opportunity to be honest and off-script … I hope that this will impact and enlighten the community of the many ways in which we experience Blackness. It comes in many forms, and it is not monolithic.”

Roberson added that he is excited to also lead the Voices of Faith Gospel Choir later Tuesday night at the candlelight prayer service in the Main Building. The prayer service will commemorate the life and legacy of King and encourage participants to reflect on how the campus community can address issues of racism and inequality.

Walk the Walk Week will also feature two events planned by members of student government in partnership with other campus organizations. The first event, co-sponsored by the University Counseling Center and the McDonald Center for Student Well-Being (McWell), will feature a video presentation about mental health in the Black community with a discussion to follow.

“There is still some stigma around conversations regarding mental health, especially within the Black community,” said senior Amaya Medeiros, student government’s director for the Department of Diversity and Inclusion. “It’s important that we provide space to discuss these impacts and how we can best move forward as a community.”

Additionally, student government will host a panel discussion Tuesday in collaboration with the Office of the President called “Building a ‘Beloved Community’ at Notre Dame.” The panel, which will take place at 8:15 p.m. in Washington Hall, will focus on King’s vision of a “beloved community” and how the campus can implement that vision.

“This event will be a great opportunity for students to listen and learn about diverse communities, as well as encourage our student body to reflect on ways in which they can engage in these important conversations and best support their peers moving forward,” Medeiros said.

Other events featured in the week will include a screening of the original 2012 student production “Show Some Skin: The Race Monologues” on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in the Geddes Hall Coffee House and involvement fairs hosted by the Center for Social Concerns and Multicultural Student Programs and Services on Friday at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m, respectively.