Honoring Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King

Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Kijua Sanders-McMurtry discusses the College’s Series on Racial Justice and Reconciliation, becoming a Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Campus Center, and the forthcoming antisemitism teach-in.

Dear members of the Mount Holyoke community,

January provides an opportunity for reflection and renewal, particularly as we examine our commitment to and collective work toward an anti-racist future.

Sunday, January 15, would have been Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ninety-fourth birthday. We now observe this day as a federal holiday due to the unyielding advocacy of his late wife, activist Coretta Scott King. We honor the lives and legacies of Dr. King and Mrs. King each year through the Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King Series on Racial Justice and Reconciliation. Over the next two weeks, we are hosting in-person and virtual education programs.

Tonight at 7:00 pm ET, we’re hosting a virtual event — “UnCommon Bonds: Exploring the Complexity of Interracial and Intergenerational Friendships between Black, Brown and White Women.” For this year’s keynote, we are delighted to welcome Heather McGhee, author of “The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together,” in conversation with Interim President Beverly Daniel Tatum. Their talk, titled “Racial Healing and the Solidarity Dividend,” will take place Thursday, January 26, at 7 pm ET. You can register for these events and learn more about other programs via the College’s events calendar.

We are also grateful for staff in Library, Information and Technology Services (LITS), who continue to commemorate the National Day of Racial Healing. They have provided a library research guide to share resources and readings for those interested in engaging in interrogative work around racial healing.

The civil rights movement of the 1960s and ’70s was intersectional from its founding. Its many leaders understood, as Aboriginal activist Lilla Watson described, that our liberation is bound together, that my freedom cannot exist without your freedom. With this truth in mind, Dr. King worked closely with religious leaders across belief systems to organize together and overcome oppression. That’s why each year our Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King series centers an antisemitism teach-in. We will share more details on this year’s speakers and events in future communications, but we invite you to join us on Monday, January 30, and Tuesday, January 31, for the events that are being planned with organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and Mount Holyoke’s Office of Community and Belonging. Our collective work seeks to continuously educate people about the deep roots of Judeophobia and dispel pervasive and pernicious misinformation about Judaism and racial antisemitism. Our anti-racist work is incomplete when we disaggregate racism and antisemitism, and thus we are vigilant about deepening the solidarity between Black and Jewish communities, and, in doing so, we honor the bond between civil rights workers of the past and present.

Becoming a Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Campus Center is a goal we recently accomplished, allowing us to extend our work beyond the borders of Mount Holyoke and into the communities of South Hadley, Holyoke and Springfield. The American Association of Colleges and Universities selects institutions with a demonstrated commitment to addressing systemic racism and a bold, collective vision for a world free of racism. We are proud to have received this designation at the close of 2022 and humbled to continue working toward our anti-racist vision for the future alongside community and campus partners across the country.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day provides an important touchstone that gives us the opportunity to revisit, reassess and redouble our efforts to reckon with racism and work to heal our communities. We are grateful for partnerships across campus with the Weissman Center for Leadership, the Daughters of Zion, the Jewish Student Union and the Division of Student Life. It is our hope that you will feel encouraged through life-affirming programs that engage concepts of friendship, remembrance, hope and perseverance. The work of racial healing is not a solo project experienced only in singular programs or events; it is ongoing work deeply rooted in activist moments of the past and present, when people have joined together in community and worked to solve problems. As economist Heather McGhee reminds us in her work, “I’m fundamentally a hopeful person because I know that decisions made the world as it is and that better decisions can change it. Nothing about our situation is inevitable or immutable, but you can’t solve a problem with the consciousness that created it.”

I am excited to once again be engaged in the deep work of racial solidarity with each of you — in remembrance of a leader who did so much to illuminate for us the power of a dream.

In community,