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MLK day events explore how economics and social justice connect

Martin-Luther-King 1.16Each year for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Bates College celebrates with a series of events and workshops centered on a connecting theme. This year, the theme is Debt and Inequality: The Relevance of King’s Forgotten Economic Message.

Beginning this Sunday and lasting through Monday, Bates will host feature films, workshops, and performances by Sankofa, as well as two addresses by Anthea Butler, a theologian whose work studies the connection between Sarah Palin’s politics and religion.

The two feature films on Sunday are called The Corporation and Sacred Justice: The Orangeburg Massacre 1968. The first explores the notion of the corporation as a legal “person”; just what kind of person is it? The second focuses on a college shooting in which three African American students were killed by white police officers. Sunday’s events conclude with The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Service with a Homily by Anthea Butler entitled God and the 99 Percent, followed by a reception and book signing.

Monday begins with the keynote address ceremony, whose speakers include President Spencer, Professor Charles Nero, and Anthea Butler, who will speak about American poverty in her speech MLK and America’s Bad Check: America’s Poor in the 21st Century. Afterwards, students will have a chance to discuss Butler’s address in smaller groups facilitated by faculty, staff, and other students.

The Africana Club is sponsoring a presentation called “Walter Rodney and ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’, and students from educational studies have put together a program called “A Growing Divide: The Cost of Educational Inequity”.

In the afternoon, the Bates Quimby Debate Council will face off in its annual debate against Morehouse College. This year’s topic is whether or not the government has a responsibility to enact policies that fight poverty.

“The debate is a great tradition between two schools concerned with social justice and I think the topic of what should government’s obligation to low-income citizens be is especially pertinent in our current political climate,” said senior and debate team President Ben Smith.

Bates debates with Morehouse every year because of the connection that former Bates graduate and Morehouse College President Benjamin E. Mays forged between the two schools.  Mays was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s mentor.

Seniors Cat Djang and Virginia Flatow will participate in the debate for Bates.

The rest of the afternoon is devoted to two sessions of workshops that focus on topics such as exploring financial literacy in Lewiston-Auburn, looking at the link between economic challenges, social justice, and athletics, how Chinese migrants are portrayed in film, and how we can better live the mission statement of our college. There will also be a performance by Aaron Calafato called For Profit in the Gannett Theatre.

In the evening, Sankofa will wrap up the day’s events with their performance “A Rose by Any Other Name”. While this brings a close to the official activities, the spirit of the day continues through Wednesday, where Bates faculty, staff, and students will visit the Martel School in Lewiston to share a book with a student there for a Read-In.

Tickets are required for the debate and Sankofa performance, but are free.

For a full schedule of events, or to learn more about Sankofa or Andrea Butler, and to reserve free tickets for the debate and performance, check out the Bates website.

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