Written by Liz McCue
Images by Liz McCue and Logan Fetzer
For the second year, Doane University held a full week of events to honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in January. Events were coordinated by members of the MLK Week committee, which includes faculty, staff and alumni, and the division of diversity, equity and inclusion.
The university also closed on Monday, Jan. 15 in observation of the federal holiday recognizing the civil rights leader — the first time Doane has observed the holiday.
“I would hope that some of us who have been resting on our laurels will get unrested,” said Dr. Marilyn Johnson-Farr, professor of education, in previewing the week of events for 1011/KOLN’s Pure Nebraska.
A candlelight vigil scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 18 to kick off the events was postponed due to winter weather. But the vigil served just as well as a way to close out MLK Week with thought-provoking messages and commitment from attendees and the city of Crete to carry on the week’s theme, “Living the Dream: It Starts with Me — Spreading Hope, Courage and Unity.”
An introduction was given by Johnson-Farr and Dr. Roger Hughes ’82, Doane University president, before a city proclamation read by City Council President Dale Strehle ’84.
The vigil featured incredible performances of “Rise Up” and “A Change is Gonna Come” by 11-year-old Jayde Dorsey, daughter of Dr. Jamar Dorsey ’20DE. Sophomores Sam Collins, Rian Green and Trent Bouchee read from King’s 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Before the end of the event, a candle held by Johnson-Farr was lit and Zac Rush, honors cadre facilitator for Lincoln Public Schools, led attendees in singing “This Little Light of Mine” and “We Shall Overcome.”
A Game of Proximity and Practice
On Friday, Jan. 19, guest speaker Dr. Marlon Johnson gave two presentations — one to a room full of Doane’s Leadership Team and employees on the Crete campus in the morning, and one in the evening to students in the Master of Arts in Counseling program and the public. The morning presentation was titled “Creating Inclusive Systems for Learning and Connection.”
Johnson’s evening presentation, “Looking Inward and Facing Outward: Developing Strategies for Cultural Humility,” was geared toward counselors, but messages were applicable to attendees in other fields, as well. He defined cultural humility as “the ability to maintain an interpersonal stance that is open to the other in relation to aspects of cultural identity that are most important to the client.”
But you can substitute “client” for “student,” “colleague,” or even “stranger.” In any interaction, you don’t have to know everything about another person’s culture or experiences to be willing to learn, and to practice self-awareness of how your own culture and identities are influencing the interaction. And when it comes to practicing cultural humility — there’s no certificate at the end. It’s a life-long process. Mistakes will be made, and from them, opportunities to be better.
“There’s a lot of things I’m still learning,” Johnson said, of practicing cultural humility in his own work as a licensed professional counselor and assistant professor of counselor education at the Seminary of the Southwest. “We acknowledge that this is a game of proximity and practice.”
It Starts With Me
Dr. Jamar Dorsey and Dr. Teresa Perkins, assistant professor of education and co-director of the master of education in educational leadership, shared their workshop “It Starts With Me,” twice — first on the Crete campus, followed by a session on the Lincoln campus. To start, they passed around a sheet of paper with six statements pulled from King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”:
- “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.”
- “Lukewarm acceptance is more bewildering than outright rejection.”
- “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
- “We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.”
- “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
- “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”
Participants were then given several minutes to establish a ‘value’ for each statement by distributing a total of 100 points among them.
“Because how many times a day do you assign value to people, places, in a short amount of time,” Perkins said.
They asked participants to share their thoughts on what it meant to be counterproductive or to be an extremist, both words used negatively toward King and other civil rights activists. And like Perkins and Dorsey both drove from the Crete workshop maybe a little faster to make it to the Lincoln workshop, they said, King saw a destination for the civil rights movement and took action to hasten movement toward it.
“Dr. King made those decisions because we had somewhere to be,” Dorsey said. “It is our moral obligation to press the accelerator because we can’t afford to wait.”
Forward Together During and After MLK Week
The week’s events also included a recap of the spring 2023 alternative spring break trip along the Civil Rights Trail, highlighting the experiences of staff, students and alumni who visited four states along the trail. You can read more about the trip in our February 2023 preview article.
Service wasn’t just a conversation topic, either — donation boxes were available on Doane’s Lincoln and Crete campuses to collect feminine care products, Black hair care products, laundry detergent and children’s books for local non-profits CEDARS, the YWCA and the Friendship Home. Students could find volunteer opportunities for CEDARS and the Friendship Home on the Helper Helper app, as well.
Dr. Amanda Irions, assistant professor of communication, facilitated a lunch and learn discussion on voting rights, and Dwight Brown led a presentation on social emotional intelligence and microaggressions.
But although MLK Week has ended for another year, the work started during it can continue. Several service projects are ongoing — donation boxes on the Lincoln campus will remain available through Feb. 5, and donations can be made to the Friendship Home via Amazon Wishlist at any time.
Members of the Doane community are also invited to share their Call to Action — an online form asking for an objective, action steps, time frame and accountability partners.
Thank you to the members of the MLK Week Planning Committee:
- Programming Committee:
- Dr. Marilyn Johnson-Farr (chair)
- Justin Ellerbe
- John Frost
- Dr. Amanda Irions
- Patty Lavelle
- Dr. Teresa Perkins
- Community Service Committee:
- Regina Sullivan ’22L (chair)
- Catherine Archie-Johnson
- Dr. Jamar Dorsey ’20DE
- Dr. Courtney East
- Stephanie Hemje
- Joshua Johnson
- Eric Jones
- Alexis Lipson
- Marketing Committee:
- Michael Stehlik ’07 (chair)
- Marivelle Magana
- Gabrielle Porter-Loving ’21L