Multi-Ethnic Education and Engagement Center hosts MLK events

Martin Luther King Jr., photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. 

Lauren Durham
Arts & Entertainment Editor

To honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Multi-Ethnic Education and Engagement Center (MEC) curated the 2021 MLK Celebration.

The week-long line up of events included a virtual march and wreath laying ceremony, a prayer service and multiple opportunities for dialogue and student engagement. 

On Jan. 19, a virtual campus wide discussion of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ongoing legacy took place. University of Dayton faculty members V. Denise James, Kelly Johnson and Ernesto Rosen Velasquez led conversations revolving around how King’s thought evolved over time. The speeches “I Have a Dream” (1963), “Beyond Vietnam,” (1967), and “I’ve been to the mountaintop” (1968) also helped fuel the discussion. 

The Rev. Dustin Pickett, campus minister for Christian diversity and ecumenical ministry, moderated the event.

Johnson, associate professor of religious studies and Fr. Ferree Chair of Social Justice, discussed how Dr. King’s messages of empathy and love, rooted in Christianity, often contradict the actions of many religious communities. 

“The fact is that white Christianity is profoundly connected to the history and the present realities of racism,” Johnson said after the discussion.

 “While the numbers of people who identify as Christian in the U.S. are declining across all demographic groups, Christianity remains both numerically and culturally important. You just can’t understand U.S. racism well without engaging white Christianity as part of it.”

Velasquez, associate professor of philosophy, echoed similar sentiments.

“Historical systematic racism is at least 500 years old and it pervades all facets of life. It is like air,” Velasquez said.

“But we do not have to live in these ways because they are human made problems that can be undone. Never perfectly but with a sufficient level of humanity to flourish. Perhaps enough that many Black people do not have to say ‘I can’t breathe.’ When we collectively create conditions for them and others to breathe then all of us in turn can also breathe.”

The panelists agreed that as a Catholic Marianist institution, dialogues about social justice issues are pertinent for the University of Dayton community at this particular time in history. 

Johnson said, “So who are the faithful witnesses to Jesus in U.S. history, if not those who have endured hatred and violence and yet have not abandoned hope, have not given up on humanity?

We see it in Dr. King’s ministry: Christianity is deeply entangled in racism, and yet the Christian witness also profoundly challenges that racism.” 

Students are encouraged to engage in activism and educational opportunities regarding Dr. King’s teachings and social justice issues throughout the semester. 

To see the full list of ongoing communication and virtual engagement offerings, visit

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