In a few months, Bates will be observing Martin Luther King Jr. day–more precisely on the 16th of January in 2017. On this day, faculty cancels all class meetings and lesson plans, in order to allow students to attend Workshops throughout the day. In addition to the workshops, there are also “readings, artistic offerings, and films that align with a theme related to the life-long work of Dr. King.”
The theme for the MLK Day will be “Reparations: Addressing Racial Injustices” and the MLK Day Planning Committee is currently accepting applications and proposals from people interested in holding inclusive workshops. The three committee co-chairs Mara Tieken, Susan Stark, and Michael Rocque described the process of selecting participants where they “allow participants the freedom to create workshops and panels that fit broadly within the theme of the day. We look for diversity in type and content of panel but we do not tend to reject proposals unless they are cost prohibitive or not related to the theme. We encourage anyone to submit a panel that would be of interest to them and to the Bates community. In terms of selecting panels, we have a MLK day committee that is composed of staff, faculty, and students and we discuss submissions in our meetings.”
The committee is interested in proposals that relate to the theme, as in they focus on ways to repair or address racial injustices. The theme was discussed and was in the works a year before the events could occur. The Co-Chairs of the committee “try to pay attention to issues that are in the news or related to current events. Reparations was a topic that has always been at the forefront of discussions of racial justice due to policies such as affirmative action but Ta-Nehisi Coates’ work in the Atlantic on reparations thrust the issue into the limelight last year. We wanted to focus more broadly on fixing past wrongs rather than reparations specifically and so as a committee, we worked together and also sent out a survey to the Bates community to allow input on possible iterations of the theme before ultimately deciding on this year’s theme.”
An example of reparations in the current news can be seen in Georgetown’s plan to offer “preferential admission to the descendants of slaves.” Given that numerous institutions have benefitted and succeed at the hands of slavery, it is critical that they attempt to fix their wrongs.
According the committee chairs, Bates is not considering implementing this policy; however, there will be numerous discussion about Bates’ “own history and relationship to this issue.”
For those interested in submitting a workshop proposal, you must do so by October 15th. The application can be found in the “Bates Today” email.