Capital University opened its campus to the community on Jan. 21 for the school's 28th annual Capital University Martin Luther King Day of Learning.
The day's activities included a keynote address by civil rights activist Joyce Ladner; interactive workshops related to diversity and social-justice issues presented by students, professors and community organizations, and musical performances of civil rights anthems by Capital's student choral groups.
In keeping with the theme, "A Community in Harmony," Capital President Elizabeth Paul welcomed guests to the opening convocation in Mees Hall.
"This is a day for all of us, a day for reflection, celebration, soul searching and action," Paul said. "That is very emblematic to Capital University's long and meaningful commitment to values of inclusion, respect, critical dialogue, justice, hope and humanity."
Paul noted that King would have turned 90 this year. While much positive social change has occurred in the years since his 1968 assassination, there is still much work to be done in bringing about racial harmony, she said.
"Thank you for joining together with the community today to ensure that Dr. King's 90th birthday is, indeed, a continued fight for progress for his dreams for humanity," Paul said. "With the strength of our values and our community, we are the life and light that will see this through."
In her keynote address, Ladner spoke about growing up in segregated Mississippi in the 1950s and getting involved in the civil rights movement as a student at Tougaloo College near Jackson, Mississippi. Ladner said she was mentored by civil rights icons such as Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer and Ella Baker.
Ladner shared her experiences as a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, working on the front lines of major civil rights protests throughout the South in the 1960s.
Ladner said two of her earliest experiences in the civil rights movement were co-founding a youth chapter of the NAACP in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in 1958 and organizing a student demonstration at the University of Texas in San Marcos in 1961 before she transferred to Tougaloo College. While demonstrating to protest the jailing of students who had been arrested for speaking against the segregated local library, Ladner said she and several of her University of Texas classmates were confronted by police.
"A few blocks from campus, we were met with a police barricade, tear gas and they chased us with police dogs," Ladner said. "There was nothing more frightening than being chased by a police dog. It touched some of my primal fears and reminded me of what slaves must have felt like when running away when bloodhounds were after them."
She was on the stage when King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963, she said.
"It is appropriate that we are honoring Dr. King, not only on his 90th birthday, but also remembering that his life of service is what we really want to celebrate," Ladner said. "He was not one for commemorating, but for doing."
Ladner encouraged Capital students to stand up for social causes and emphasized the importance of education.
"Education (is) the key to our success," Ladner said. "My mother always said, 'If you get an education, no one can take it from you.' "