OPINION: More than a day

By Eduardo Contreras | January 22, 2020 4:49pm
Eduardo Contreras, assistant provost for International Education, Diversity, and Inclusion. Photo courtesy of Eduardo Contreras.

On Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, we began a new UP tradition of observing the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. Although classes were canceled on that day, it was not a day off; instead, members of the campus community engaged fully in the theme, “MLK Day On: Engage, Reflect, Serve.” The day concluded with a keynote lecture by Walidah Imarisha and a musical performance by UP alumna Julianne Johnson-Weiss, current student Sharif Morton, the UP band and choir. For those seeking a structured model of reflection, our website includes guiding questions and an invitation to light a candle in the Grotto and offer a prayer of hope as we continue the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. to create a Beloved Community of justice, love and peace. 

Walidah Imarisha was the keynote speaker for UP's first ever MLK Day On. In her address she went through a timeline of racism in Portland and Oregon as a whole.
by Molly Lowney / The Beacon

This inaugural event was a testament to the power of individual voices coming together as a collective to reject the pernicious legacy of systemic racism and white supremacy. There are numerous people to thank for their work on MLK Day On. First and foremost, there was an ad hoc committee that served tirelessly for over a year on creating that special day. Our committee included faculty and staff members who each deserve gratitude for their work: Yuri Hernández Osorio, Tshombé Brown, Lara Trout, Sarina Saturn, Laurie Laird, Maureen Briare, Rebecca Seibert and undergraduate student Melissa Allen. Of course, there are many other people to thank past and present who lobbied for the day off and supported, funded, promoted, and advocated for this day through distinct efforts. My sincere gratitude to each of you.

As important and impactful as MLK Day was, it is important to understand that working for equity is not merely a day’s work. Indeed, it’s not a week’s work either, as Diversity and Inclusion Programs showed when they extended Diversity Dialogues into multiple weeks. I applauded this change and now encourage everyone to partake in the many diversity-related events taking place during this extended period and beyond. This year’s program is nuanced, informative and a rich representation of the variety of (often intersectional) voices from our campus community.

The audience gives Walidah Imarisha a standing ovation following her keynote address.
by Molly Lowney / The Beacon

Beyond Diversity Dialogues, I am grateful to the many students and colleagues who continue to advance equity on campus and I look forward to future collaborations and good work together.

Eduardo Contreras is the assistant provost for International Education, Diversity, and Inclusion. He can be reached at contrera@up.edu