“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
These words from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. inspired the theme of Belmont’s 26th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Week which has taken place in observance of the late minister’s birthday since January 1997.
Community guests and neighboring colleges and universities joined Belmont in celebrating the infinite hope of Dr. King’s legacy. The theme connects back to the campus message for Belmont to be an institution where hope abounds.
“Even as we commemorate Dr. King and the power of his words, life and witness to move America, let’s also remember it wasn’t only him,” Belmont University President Greg Jones said. “The work of preaching, like the work of ministry, like the work of discipleship is not a solo enterprise – it’s a team sport. So, let’s all be agents of hope.”
Nine Nashville colleges and universities participated in the ninth annual Joint Day of Service on Saturday, Jan. 14 to kick off the weeklong celebration.
Belmont’s director of the Office of Service-Learning Tim Stewart helped establish the Day of Service thirteen years ago, in partnership with Vanderbilt and Tennessee State University. This year, the event brought hundreds of students together to participate in various service projects throughout Nashville, echoing numerous facets of Belmont’s mission and vision.
“The work that we do on the MLK Joint Day of Service helps us towards our aspirational aim of being radical champions for helping people and communities flourish,” Stewart said. “Our collaboration with diverse campuses from the community help us embrace hope and inclusivity to help reweave the social fabric, as outlined in Strategic Pathway 4 and it provides opportunities to amplify storytelling to inspire the world with messages of truth, beauty and goodness, epitomized through our work surrounding Strategic Pathway 5”
Rev. Kevin Cosby spoke at a community luncheon after delivering Wednesday’s chapel address. Cosby is the Senior Pastor at St. Stephen Church in Louisville, KY — the largest employer of African Americans in Kentucky, and the seventh president of Simmons College of Kentucky. Using relatable, light-hearted anecdotes, Cosby encouraged chapel attendees with a message from Matthew 7, and his luncheon address focused on the boldness found in the fourth chapter of Acts.
Dr. Jon Roebuck, executive director of the Rev. Charlie Curb Center for Faith Leadership invited Arlene Averbuch, Steve Riven, Martin Sir and Rabbis Shana Mackler and Mark Schiftan from Nashville’s Jewish community to a panel discussion over Civil Rights advocacy and allyship from the Jewish perspective.
Rabbi Mackler serves at The Temple, Congregation Ohabai Sholom and emphasized the long-standing support between the Black and Jewish communities.
“Today, I think, there is a forgetting of that sacred relationship,” Mackler said. “It wasn’t Jews showing up for the African American community and being the one always with a handout to help. It went both ways. A lot of Rabbis and scholars who came from Germany to flee the Holocaust couldn’t get jobs in the northeast. They couldn’t get jobs in universities, but the HBCUs opened their doors.”
“We show up for each other and we build those relationships because we have those same values,” Mackler continued. “The work that we do with other communities of difference stands to help reinforce and educate all our communities in those values of being created in the image of God, loving your neighbor and shouting out justice and pursuing it.”
Real Talk sessions for staff as well as students were facilitated during the week. MLK Celebration sponsors include the Office of the Provost, MLK Celebration Committee, Faith-Based Engagement and Church Relations.
Historian, author and history professor at Simmons College Jemar Tisby closed out the week as Friday’s guest lecturer. Tisby is the author of The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism and How to Fight Racism. His chapel message and lunch lecture challenged attendees to critically think about how compromise feeds racial prejudice and discrimination.
“We have this erroneous idea that the real racists are the ones who put on white robes and hoods,” Tisby said. “The ones who proudly and blithely proclaim racial slurs. Make no mistake, they are racists, but all those things happen with people nearby who don’t say anything. Understand, the most egregious acts of racism can only happen within a context of complicity.”
Belmont continues to emphasize the value of human dignity by hosting MLK Week events each year through chapel services, programming and dialogues on diversity, race and ethnicity.