King’s Legacy Honored at Special Event

News Story: January 19, 2017

Sacred Heart University honored Martin Luther King, Jr., this week with a diverse event filled with reflection, spoken word poetry and music.

“Today is a celebration,” senior Christian Carter told the audience filled with students, faculty, staff and community members. “And it’s an opportunity to reflect.” Carter served as the master of ceremonies during the program.

The program opened with three middle school students from John Winthrop School in Bridgeport who are also part of SHU’s Academic Mentorship Program. Each student shared what he or she would like to see changed in the world. Sixth grader Lucas Ferreira said he would like to fix inequality with education so people could learn to treat all people nicely. “Just because people look different doesn’t mean they should be treated badly,” he said. His peers echoed his statements.

Spoken word poet and SHU student, Gilberto GraVe Figueroa, presented a piece “When Will It Be Enough?” and was followed by a musical trio featuring junior Katherine Horne singing the song “I’ll Rise.”

Anita August, professor and director of SHU’s creative writing program, introduced the event’s keynote speaker Kiese Laymon, an author and professor at Vassar College.

Laymon shared a piece he wrote specifically for the event. It was about his experiences growing up in Mississippi in the eighth grade. He talked about attending a predominately white Catholic school with his best friend after the predominantly black Catholic school he attended closed for lack of funding. Laymon recalled being treated differently by students and teachers, even the same teachers who taught him at his old school. He said every day he was reminded by his mother to “be excellent and to be careful.” He touched on the topics of white supremacy and racism. He ended his speech by telling the audience, “We can’t explore what we swear doesn’t exist.” Laymon encouraged his audience to assess American power.

Laymon’s powerful remarks were followed by a reflection from SHU’s La Hispanidad organization, which gives students interested in Spanish and Latino heritage the chance to get together. Two students explored and deflected Spanish and Latino stereotypes, such as that all Puerto Ricans are in gangs or that a Spanish-speaking person is always Spanish.

SHU’s all-female choir SHU L.O.V.E. performed a piece titled “The Storm is Passing Over.” Another powerful performance was shared by SHU’s Gay Straight Alliance, a club that promotes a safe environment for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students. Students shared their experiences as members of the LGBT community and striving for acceptance.

Members of SHU’s African-American fraternity Iota Phi Theta wowed the audience with a step- and-stroll performance.

At the end of the event, the audience heard music from professor Joe Alicastro and Madeleine Golda who sang “Change is Going to Come,” before hearing spoken word poetry from Tarishi “M.I.D.N.I.G.H.T.” Shuler. Shuler, who has performed at SHU in the past, took on the issues of racism and discrimination in his poems and also spoke about powerful women and the meaning behind his name.

The program was sponsored by the Office of Volunteer Programs & Service Learning, the College of Arts & Sciences, College of Health Professions, College of Nursing, Isabelle Farrington College of Education and the Jack Welch College of Business.

MLK Celebration 1/18/17