How Drew Honored the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Volunteer work, group projects and a Freedom School workshop.

January 2018 – Through words, deeds and music, Drew University honored the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The two days of activity began with a Freedom School workshop led by Theological School Professor Traci West, continued with off-campus volunteer work and ended with a flurry of group projects inside the Ehinger Center. It was a rousing run-up to the start of a new semester.

At the workshop, held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, West shared stories of civil rights leaders and asked questions that challenged students, professors and administrators to think about what equality looks like and how to achieve it. The stories illustrated how change arose from hands-on resistance and determination and the questions sparked active participation.

Indeed, the professor offered no easy catharsis of “love will heal everything” on the King holiday. Rather, she urged the group to “engage in active learning that stretches our capacity to think about the content of social movement leadership.”

West also screened a clip from a documentary about King and the Poor People’s Campaign of the late 1960s that included behind-the-scenes planning for the launch of the campaign, in 1968. Other famous figures in the clip included Marian Wright Edelman, Jesse Jackson and Andrew Young.

Before West spoke, Mark Miller, an associate professor and composer in residence at the Theological School, sang and played keyboard while leading attendees through songs such as “Only Love Can Do That” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” And later, the crowd broke down into smaller groups to discuss how to create a new society. President MaryAnn Baenninger thanked those who participated and asked them to think about translating their thoughts into action.

On day two, students traveled to Morristown to work on a Habitat for Humanity home that’s nearly complete and volunteer at the Market Street Mission Thrift Store. Another group boarded a bus for the Community Food Bank in Hillside, where they sorted food and home goods into boxes bound for food pantries. Sixty-eight students participated in the projects, which were organized by Drew’s Center for Civic Engagement.

Back on campus, the Center welcomed another 75 students into the EC to knit hats for the homeless, assemble toiletry and school supply kits for victims of hurricanes and write letters on behalf of people in other countries who are harassed, attacked or imprisoned unjustly. They also decorated pillowcases for children at Morristown Neighborhood House and created Valentine’s Day treat bags for senior citizens at the Mount Kemble Home and Morris View Healthcare Center.

As jazz piped through two speakers, the students casually yet efficiently tackled the tasks. Professors also pitched in, with some bringing their children to help out. It felt like a large family gathering, a fitting tribute to King and a welcome back reunion all rolled into one.

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