‘Standing at the Threshold’ Honors Martin Luther King Jr.

News subtitle

Dartmouth’s month-long celebration includes a new oratory contest for students.

MLK celebrants
Last year’s MLK celebrants gathered for the traditional candlelight vigil, which will be held again this year. (Photo by Robert Gill)

“The times that we are in right now require a lot of critical thinking about serious issues,” says Evelynn Ellis, vice president for institutional diversity and equity. “But now more than ever, we also need to be able to laugh.”

Ellis expects a large audience for comedian, author, and video blogger Franchesca Ramsey, who will give the keynote speech for Dartmouth’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 21, in Spaulding Auditorium at the Hopkins Center for the Arts.

Host of the award-winning MTV news web series Decoded, Ramsey is also the author of Well, That Escalated Quickly: Memoirs and Mistakes of an Accidental Activist, which The New York Times calls “a sort of manual on social justice, complete with a glossary of terms like ‘ableism’ (discrimination against people with disabilities) and ‘ally’ (someone who defends the rights of marginalized groups to which they do not belong).”

Ellis says Ramsey’s presentation comes at a time when “there appears to be a continuous decline in respectful discourse that is seriously harmful to the nation as a whole. People of color, women, poor people, and immigrants are suffering the pains of the toxic discourse in ways that will require decades of healing and community rebuilding.”

The theme of this year’s commemoration is “Standing at the Threshold.”

“We stand at the threshold between human compassion and total indifference,” says Ellis. “May our programs inspire you to choose compassion.”

New to the MLK commemoration this year is the Towards Freedom Oratorical contest, open to all currently enrolled Dartmouth students. Contestants read or watched the speech King gave when he visited Dartmouth in 1962 and wrote reflective essays, songs, or monologues about its meaning and relevance. Three winners have been selected to give presentations and participate afterwards in a panel discussion at 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 4 in Dartmouth 105, the same room where King spoke in 1962. This event is part of the College’s 250th Celebration.

Celebrating Social Justice

Co-sponsored by the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration committee, the Office of Institutional Diversity & Equity, the William Jewett Tucker Center, the Center for Social Impact, and the Geisel School of Medicine, the annual social justice awards recognize members of the Dartmouth community who have contributed significantly to peace, civil rights, education, public health, environmental justice, or social justice.

The 2019 honorees are:

  • Lifetime Achievement: Ray Blackwell ’80, DMS ’87
    Chief of cardiac surgery and surgical director of the Mechanical Circulatory Support program at Christiana Care Health Services in Newark, Del., Blackwell is an advocate and supporter of underrepresented and underfunded medical students, serving on many non-profit boards that advance the cause of diversity in the medical profession. He also chairs the Blood Pressure Ambassadors program, which addresses hypertension in the African American community. Blackwell will graduate in June from Widener University Delaware Law School.  
  • Ongoing Achievement: Michelle Duster ’85
    An author, speaker, and educator, Duster works with various projects and organizations that create, document, and promote untold stories of African Americans. She has written or edited nine books, ranging in topic from the investigative journalist and civil rights leader Ida B. Wells (Duster’s great grandmother) to Michelle Obama. With an M.A. in media studies from the New School in New York City, Duster teaches business writing at Columbia College Chicago.
  • Holly Fell Sateia Award: N. Bruce Duthu ’80, Samson Occom Professor of Native American Studies
    An internationally recognized scholar of Native American law and policy who holds a JD from Loyola University School of Law, Duthu joined the faculty of arts and sciences at Dartmouth in 2008. He is the Samson Occom Professor and former chair of Native American Studies. Duthu’s scholarly works include Shadow Nations: Tribal Sovereignty and the Limits of Legal Pluralism (2013) and American Indians and the Law (2008). In 2018, he co-produced the documentary feature film, Dawnland, which focuses on state removal of Indian children from their families.
  • Lester B. Granger Award for Lifetime Achievement: Dartmouth Class of 1959 in recognition of the creation and ongoing support of Dartmouth Partners in Community Service
    Through their class project, Dartmouth Partners in Community Service (DPCS), the Class of  1959 has supported over 800 nonprofit internships and more than 300,000 hours of community services valued at over $7 million. Founded in 1994 by class members Karl Holtzschue and Michael Stern and supported by many other class members and their spouses, DPCS engages undergraduates in transformative internships that provide meaningful service to agencies and allow students to explore important issues of social justice and service. Each DPCS intern is matched with a Dartmouth alumni mentor who provides guidance and support to the student during their internship.

The awards will be presented at 7 p.m., followed by a panel discussion, on Thursday, Jan. 31, in Filene Auditorium. Read more about the awards and awardees.

MLK Traditions

Dartmouth staff and faculty will gather for breakfast in the Hanover Inn Grand Ballroom at 8:30 a.m. Monday, Jan. 21. Seating is limited; registration is required and closes Jan. 14. The featured speaker will be Assistant Professor of Religion and African and African American Studies Vaughn Booker. At 5 p.m. that evening, a candlelight vigil will begin at Cutter-Shabazz Hall, sponsored by the Theta Zeta chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

Other highlights of the month-long celebration include a children’s puppet show, weekly sing-ins, and interfaith worship services. Alicia Ely Yamin will give the keynote address for the Geisel School of Medicine celebration event, “Sexual Violence: Survival, Stereotypes, and Social Change,” at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19.

For a full listing of Martin Luther King Jr. events, visit the website.

Charlotte Albright can be reached at charlotte.e.albright@dartmouth.edu.

Charlotte Albright