The 2010 Martin Luther King Day event was the first SUNY New Paltz campus function Jada Young remembers attending. It took place shortly after founder of the SUNY New Paltz Black Studies Department, Margaret Wade -Lewis died.
Young has attended the annual event every year since. Now she is the president of the event committee.
The Martin Luther King Day event committee has met weekly since October to organize an affair that will honor King’s legacy on Monday, Feb. 4 at 6 p.m. in Lecture Center 102, committee member Kamoy Joseph said.
An array of performances and a student-/faculty panel will be held in lieu of a keynote speaker, Young, a fourth-year Black Studies major said.
“We will not have a keynote speaker, because we feel that sometimes keynote speakers can be a not–so–exciting experience for audience members,” Young said. “So instead we will have a panel of three speakers speaking on the theme and connecting it to Dr. King and to the political prisoner campaign.”
“From Overseer to Officer: Surveillance and Control in Communities of Color,” the theme of this year’s event, is the product of discussion among the committee members about different social issues in communities of color and how they relate to King’s message, Young said.
Young said the New York City “stop and frisk” law also inspired the theme.
“From my perspective, the role of the police in Black communities specifically has been similar to that of an enslavement–era overseer, which I plan to speak more on at the panel,” Young said. “We also intend to connect the theme to the political prisoner letter writing campaign and to what Dr. King himself experienced.”
The committee chose five United States political prisoners and plan to write letters of encouragement to them at the beginning of the event, Young said.
“What people will come to learn at this event is that there have been times in communities of color where it seems that all hope is lost and it has been evident that people of color do not hold the power in our own communities,” Young said. “I want the message to be centered on the power of self–determination.”
Young believes it will be eye-opening and inspiring for those that attend. Joseph, a third-year Black Studies and journalism double-major, said the theme will also help to shed light on King as a “radical.”
“Everyone will have their own experience,” Joseph said. “But, I hope it’s a positive one.”