Concordia observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day by engaging campus and the wider Fargo-Moorhead community with a series of public keynote speakers, breakout sessions, and a Q&A panel.
The day’s theme centered on issues of racial and social justice and, specifically, how white people can and must take part in the dismantling of systems of oppression.
The opening keynote speaker, Janaya Khan, is an activist and organizer within the Black Lives Matter movement. Through anecdotes from their own experiences as a black, queer, gender-nonconforming activist, Khan highlighted a need for activism from all people, not just those directly impacted by oppression.
“Activism is being for someone else the person that you needed most when you were vulnerable,” Khan said. “Imagine if we took the experiences of others as if they were happening to ourselves.”
The afternoon keynote speaker, Ijeoma Oluo, is author of the New York Time’s best-selling book “So You Want to Talk About Race.” Oluo illustrated some of the ways that western culture assumes whiteness, portraying everything else as different and exotic. She expressed the importance of confronting the history of black oppression in America in order to understand and combat the systems of oppression still in place today.
“White supremacy was built by people and it can be torn down by people,” Oluo said. “You are all a part of someone else’s story. Who do you want to be in that story?”
Throughout the day, breakout sessions led by faculty and students were held across campus. These sessions explored specific topics related to racial and social justice. The day concluded with a panel discussion where audience members asked questions of the keynote speakers and additional panelists.