MLK Day: A Day of Learning, Reflection and Celebration

By Julia Berger Published: Jan 20, 2012

Indianapolis Jazz Orchestra - photo by Julia Berger

In many ways, Taylor University’s celebration of the federal holiday set aside to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was not unlike the national tribute to the fallen civil rights champion.

Taylor’s King Day celebration, which turned 20 this year, once again featured speakers, music, dialogue and worship. Dr. Michael Hammond, now a history professor at Southeastern University in Washington, DC, was a Taylor senior when the first day was held in 1992, and was the featured chapel speaker.

Taylor’s Gospel Choir and the Indianapolis Jazz Orchestra also performed. The IJO’s evening concert paid tribute to the legendary performer, Duke Ellington The IJO is directed by Taylor adjunct faculty member Jeff Anderson.

During the run-up to the holiday, Taylor’s King Day planning committee sought faculty ideas for the afternoon workshops. Topic sessions included, “Women and the Civil Rights Movement,” “Duke Ellington,” “Why Should Race Matter To Me, I’m White!,” “Mathematics as a Civil Right,” “Punishment or Forgiveness?,” “Pacifism,” and “Voice of Calvary and the Spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”

Nichole Banister, a senior political science major, said she enjoyed hearing Taylor’s professors speak about important topics outside of the classroom. Banister attended Dr. David Neuhouser’s session, “Pacifism,” and Dr. Kevin Diller’s workshop, “Punishment or Forgiveness? Are there conflicts in a Christian approach to justice and international peacemaking?”

“Dr. Neuhouser went through all these points of how Christianity and pacifism were related,” Banister said. “I felt like he had a lot of really good resources and wasn’t really pulling from personal opinion. He said, ‘Here’s what scripture says and here’s how it’s interpreted by all these followers.’”

Banister and other students appreciated hearing presentations from professors either confirming or challenging a student’s perspective.

Steve Austin, Associate Dean and Director of Student Programs, played a significant role in developing the day’s agenda. Austin said his goal for the day was that it would act as a launching pad for further conversations. “This is a good thing for everyone,” Austin said. “My hope is that everyone who attended left in a learning posture.”

Austin said reactions to the day have been positive and he is encouraged by the students’ engagement and interest in learning. The combination of history presented in chapel and the afternoon sessions gave students the chance to learn about topics they might not partake in otherwise. The committee hopes to see further engagement through conversations in the future among students and faculty.

“I wish I would have gone in other years knowing just how interesting the sessions were,” Banister said. “I was pretty impressed with the amount of speakers and how good they were.”