Posted by Chris Howes on January 11, 2018
This week, students will explore topics of equality, inclusion and intolerance as part of a special program honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. The Let Freedom Ring series will examine the meaning of democracy and freedom in America today. The celebration has become an annual event for students, faculty and staff at Aurora University, following last year’s well-received program.
“Recognizing what intolerance looks like, sounds like and feels like is the first step in working toward building more inclusive communities,” said Amir St. Clair, executive director of the Wackerlin Center for Faith and Action at Aurora University. “The Let Freedom Ring series will provide opportunities for students to learn more about strategies for identifying such behavior and ways to move toward a more inclusive, equitable approach.”
During the series, students can share their thoughts and feelings about diversity and inclusion through music, poetry and the written word. They can attend lectures on hate crimes, the civil rights movement in Memphis, and the academic approach to freedom of speech, as well as a screening and discussion of the film “12 Years a Slave.” (The latter event is open to the public through the Celebrating Art and Ideas series) Perhaps most powerful will be a presentation by a former member of an extremist group who will talk about his past life of hate and violence and how he was able to escape that culture.
According to St. Clair, one of the most valuable lessons for those attending the Let Freedom Ring events is witnessing a community come together in a civil and respectful manner to examine equality and freedom. Many events during the week, he said, will draw from the themes, messages and concepts championed by King, whose speeches and letters often challenged others to contemplate their response to these issues through the lens of their value system, such as faith or family.
“I believe his message would center on the ways and strategies by which Americans confront and move forward with combating instances of hate, intolerance and bigotry,” St. Clair said.