Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Its Impact at Hope College

On January 16th, Hope College celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Day, a federal holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Hope held its first Dr. Martin Luther King Day Leadership Summit throughout the day with a variety of events and sessions for students and faculty and even members of the public to attend. The day started out with breakout sessions and a chapel message from The Chaplain of Discipleship, Shomari Tate. This was then followed by another group of breakout sessions educating students and faculty on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., reconciliation, Dr. King’s impact on Christianity and American Culture, and a history of activism over time. A Commemorative March was expected to be walked around Downtown Holland and Hope’s Campus however, due to rain, it was canceled.

As part of the leadership summit, Hope College’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) ran their thirty-fifth annual civil rights lecture. This year’s lecture featured civil rights activist Sheyann Webb-Christburg, who was coined the ‘Smallest Freedom Fighter’ by Dr. King himself. Sheyann’s lecture touched on how she met Dr. King and how his kindness overflowed into her life as he included her in meetings at Brown Chapel Church and influenced her to live a life of activism. She described her personal formation through Dr. King’s mentorship. Sheyann spoke on her participation and experience of “Bloody Sunday” and how she experienced being gassed by police at eight years old while standing with others in the peaceful march for equality. She is an advocate and ‘freedom fighter’ for the civil rights movement. Sheyann is not only a Christian, a friend, an activist, and speaker, but she is also an author of the book Selma, Lord, Selma.

Hope College’s Director of Center of Diversity and Inclusion, Jevon Willis and Hope’s Chaplain of Discipleship, Shomari Tate both contributed greatly to enabling the first Dr. Martin Luther King Day Leadership Summit at Hope along with the help and dedication of all the MSO’s and the Social Justice Team. Jevon and Shomari both spoke on the heart behind celebrating MLK Day at Hope College. Both Jevon and Shomari emphasized that celebrating MLK day at Hope is displaying to the Hope community the best that one can be and the active role that we all must take to ensure that equality, inclusivity, and belonging occur on our campus. Both individuals and their teams are passionate about the great work and life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. because of their love for the community. When asking Jevon and Shomari about their hearts behind MLK Day for Hope, they each gave some great insight. Shomari Tate stated, “We think justice and Jesus are separate, but Dr. Martin Luther King, along with other philosophers and theologians, show that Jesus is the lion and the lamb to bring salvation for all and justice here on this Earth.” Similarly, Jevon Willis said, “Two words come to mind — truth and justice. Hope must have a pursuit of truth and justice. When it comes to pursuit there is no destination. The challenge for our community is to stay active and be persistent and relentless as the conditions that create the enquiries.”

Overall, Hope College has set the tone and scene for Martin Luther King Day to be a day for all students to interact, become educated, and in response become active. It is hoped to have a greater amount of attendance in future years as the college continues their passion and respect toward the legacy of The Great Late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sheyann Webb-Christburg (Photo credit: Hope College website)

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