Martin Luther King, Jr. Lead the March on Washington in 1963

Martin Luther King, Jr. Lead the March on Washington in 1963

January 24, 2019

Ithaca Community Celebrates MLK Day

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Earlier this week, the Ithaca community celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day with week-long celebrations, community meals, workshops and guest speakers.

Ithaca College honored King with a commemorative week of events run by the Center for Innovation, Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Social Change. Ithaca College has been celebrating MLK day as a “day on” not “day off” since 2008, according to their website.

The idea of the “day on” is a time of reflection and a call to action through programs and activities, rather than simply taking a vacation.

Their week of events features a keynote address, workshops, speakers and panels. Friday will mark the end of their celebrations with a day of service for the Ithaca College community, Omega Hollies, assistant director of IDEAS, said.

One of the best things about the celebration is the length according to Hollies, who also praised the college’s stress on remembering “the heart” of King’s philosophies in their celebrations.

“Often times institutions have a tendency take MLK’s vision and grandiose ideas [and] get caught up in the idea of what King was and what King could of been,” Hollies told The Sun. “I like that IC has been cognizant of the ways in which institutions can do that and has been pretty honest about making sure we try not to do that.”

In the local community, the Greater Ithaca Activities Center has been celebrating King for over 30 years according to Deputy Director Travis Brooks. He expressed the importance of hosting an annual event and the importance of King to communities of color.

“If we don’t do it, it is not something that is going to happen in this community,” Brooks told The Sun. “For us to keep that memory alive … to celebrate … to bring people together … to share a meal ….  to put guest speakers in front of the community to talk about what he meant and how they used that in what they do now, is mandatory.”

This year, the center hosted their annual breakfast on Saturday for the Ithaca community which featured food, performances, drumming, and speakers. Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick ‘09 gave the keynote address about the event’s theme, Dr. King’s famous quote, “We need leaders not in love with money but in love with justice. Not in love with publicity but in love with humanity.” The annual luncheon that GIAC hosts on MLK day was cancelled this year due to the snowstorm.

According to Brooks, it is important to have events that allow people to come together in fellowship and reflect.

“It’s also just as important for them to recharge their battery to get ready for the struggle of the new year, the new day and to remember that there are hundreds of people that are there with them and they have thousands, millions that have come before them,” he said.

King’s labor activism is currently being honored in an exhibit at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations in the the Catherwood Library lobby. The exhibit will be on display until July 22.