MLK Day at Hesston College

By Kalen Haynes – News & Features Editor

MLK Day Choir performs the song, “We Shall Overcome.” Photo courtesy of Larry Bartel, Hesston College Marketing and Communications.

For the first time in recent history, Hesston College cancelled classes in order to dedicate the entire day to celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  We remembered his incredible accomplishments for African Americans, and the civil rights movement.

Some students on campus might rejoice at the idea of a day off from classes, but in reality, MLK Day was a united celebration of diversity. MLK Day reminded students, teachers and the Hesston community of what it truly means to be free.

What seemed to be a day off, turned into a “soon to be” tradition for Hesston College.

Over 17 countries are represented by students at Hesston College. Dozens of backgrounds and nationalities, all unified because of what one man, and an entire movement accomplished. MLK brought together people from all walks of life. Regardless of race, wealth or background, people came together for love, respect and freedom. Hesston College represents faith, courage and diversity. And on our first MLK Day, we celebrated this sensational reality.

Events on campus kicked off with Hesston College President, Joe Manickam, and international admissions director, John Murray. In a workshop for students and teachers, President Manickam and Murray talked about the misconceptions surrounding privilege, how racial ideas and profiling still exist in our society today, and most importantly, how we, as a community, can work to breakdown these issues and teach future generations to overcome these racial issues.

Murray helped bring the parallels of race to light, saying that even though he has a lesser position at Hesston College, because he is a white man, the world responds differently to him than to President Manickam, a man of color.

Students connected with the message, calling the duo, “eye-opening,” and “deep” to call out unsaid biases among the world. The workshop showed everyone how perception influences actions, and how we can work to change perceptions in our community.

Later in the day, at a special MLK Day Chapel, music professor Russell Adrian led a choir of students and faculty, singing hymns and spirituals. Emotion filled the Hesston Mennonite Church, as people sang “We Shall Overcome,” just as marchers sang during the Civil Rights movement. A panel of students told stories of how important MLK Day was to them, and how equality if worth fighting for. The choir and audience sang, “Wade in the Water,” “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and “Shine the Light,” which created a feel of faith, making students feel proud to be a part of something bigger.

The day provided students with a chance to embrace their heritage, and embody their future. A successful celebration highlighting diversity and freedom for future classes of Hesston College for years to come.

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