MLK Day 2021 marked the start of a new series of academic and cultural programming at Taft, designed to run through February and in recognition of both the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Black History Month.
The inaugural program, Civil Disobedience: Peaceful Protest, Violent Reprisal, and the Ongoing Battle for Racial Justice, was led by Dean of Multicultural Education Andrew Prince, and provided an academic and historical review of elements of the Civil Rights Movement, including public acts of civil disobedience and violence within them, both in the more distant and recent past.
"I hope this will be helpful as you think about acts of civil disobedience you see moving forward," Prince told the Taft community, whose members gathered in their advisory groups to view the session." And that you will be able to use this information to contextualize and make sense of acts of civil disobedience."
The educational programming continued first with advisory group conversations around white allyship and anti-racist activism; then, student leaders from Taft's Shades and Mosaics affinity groups led an exploration of Taft's history. The team worked with Taft Archivist Beth Nolan Lovallo '93 to develop a comprehensive look at Black History at Taft, from its first Black students and faculty member to cultural events and activities that are reflected in student life today.
On February 9, Dr. Eddie S. Glaude Jr., author, thought leader, and James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor and chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University, returned to Taft to continue the Black History Month conversation. In his talk, entitled Race & Democracy: America is Always Changing, But America Never Changes, Dr. Glaude examined "where we've been, what we've done, and who we might aspire to be as a country today, and how all this is bound up with the vexing history of race and democracy in America."
"In so many ways America faces a moral reckoning," Dr. Glaude said, "a fundamental challenge to what we mean by 'we the people.' And it begs the question, 'How might we think about Black History in this context?'"
The last event of Taft's observation of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Black History Month will be a celebration of Black Joy on February 23. The event will celebrate the countless discoveries, inventions, works of art, pieces of literature, musical innovations and creation, extraordinary foods, and other gifts to humanity that have originated in the Black community.
"Too often, in the effort to acknowledge the depth of harm done to the Black community by America's history of slavery and continued oppression, we focus exclusively on the injustice, the struggle, and the suffering of Black people," notes Prince. "However, in focusing solely on the injustice visited on Black Americans we miss out on all of the wondrous expressions of creativity and ingenuity that help to make this country and the world more vibrant. Our hope is that our day dedicated to celebrating Black Joy will offer an opportunity for us to revel in the brilliance that is Blackness."
Watch Andrew Prince's full presentation, Civil Disobedience: Peaceful Protest, Violent Reprisal, and the Ongoing Battle for Racial Justice here.
Watch Taft's Shades and Mosaic affinity group leaders talk about Black History at Taft here.