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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

‘Queens,’ volunteers and performers celebrate King on MLK Day

Published: January 21, 2011
Section: Features

“queens of his dream:” Claudiane Phillippe ’13 performs at MLK Memorial event.
PHOTO BY Ingrid Schulte/The Hoot

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day has traditionally served as a day of reflection, remembrance and service. The holiday at Brandeis, with its history of commitment to social action, is no exception.

This year, the sixth annual Brandeis Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Memorial, was a day focused on service led by a university chaplain and a program called “The Queens of His Dream,” which commemorated King and the women who made his dreams possible. This was the first year the day’s events included an afternoon of volunteering.

Alexander Levering Kern, Brandeis’ Protestant chaplain, is the executive director of Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries (CMM), a Boston-based interfaith social action and community service group. To commemorate MLK Day, Kern and Matt Carriker, CMM’s program coordinator and a pastor in Natick, organized a volunteer day of service.

Volunteers met at Brandeis for lunch, got organized and split into groups for different service opportunities. They were able to choose from options such as going to a homeless shelter to spend time with residents or doing office work at an organization that promotes equal opportunities for immigrant students.

One group also helped the Brandeis Haiti Initiative by writing letters to Haitian children, sorting donations, and writing to Senators John Kerry and Scott Brown to ask for continued governmental support for the people of Haiti.

After completing their projects, participants gathered again at Brandeis for dinner and a wrap-up. In conversations after dinner, many participants said that they were inspired by King’s spirit, values and goals, and that this inspiration led them to partake in the festivities.

Before becoming CMM’s program coordinator, Carriker was the coordinator of the Interfaith Youth Initiative, a summer program organized by CMM. “I was inspired by CMM’s mission, which really aligns with King’s. ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,’” he said, quoting King. “We really try to live by his values everyday to make the world a better place for everyone.”

After participants shared their experiences with the group, they joined members of the Brandeis community in the Carl J. Shapiro Campus Center Theater for “The Queens of His Dreams” to hear speakers and performers memorialize King. The event, which focused on King’s impact, the power of women and remembering Haiti, featured keynote speaker Reverend Gloria White-Hammond.

Max Price ’11 was the first performer of the night, playing guitar and singing Bob Dylan’s “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.” He rewrote the lyrics to apply to world issues and fit King’s messages of acceptance and equality.

After Price’s performance, Associate Dean of Student Life Jamele Adams opened the event by explaining the title. “None of his goals would have been accomplished without women,” Adams said, adding that throughout history, women have historically been forgotten.

Other performances included slam poetry by Amanda Dryer ’13 and Claudiane Philippe ’13, Brandeis’ step group So Unique, and Ba’note, an all-girl Jewish a cappella group. Louise Grasmere, a gospel singer, led the group in an emotionally-charged rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also called the “Black National Anthem.”

Shaina Gilbert ’10 and London Graham ’11 urged the audience to continue to support Haiti, reminding them that the devastation there is a human problem, not just a “Haitian one. They showed a slide-show of photos from Brandeis efforts to help Haitians and from ETE Camp, a camp for Haitian children started by Gilbert.

Gloria White-Hammond, the keynote speaker, is a reverend, a pediatrician, a wife and a mother. She spoke primarily of how women have been left in the background of history for so long, but that they truly do “make the world spin.” She urged everyone in the audience to “step out on faith” and take risks to achieve their goals, citing Nelson Mandela and saying that not once in his 27 years of imprisonment did he think that his cause might fail.