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Special Event Honors King’s Legacy

Students, faculty, performers reflect on diversity

Students recite original poetry and play music during the MLK Day celebration.

Sacred Heart University honored Martin Luther King, Jr., in February with a diverse event filled with reflection, spoken word poetry and music.

“Today is a celebration, and it’s an opportunity to reflect,” senior Christian Carter told the audience filled with students, faculty, staff and community members.

Carter served as master of ceremonies during the program, which opened with three middle school students from John Winthrop School in Bridgeport who are part of SHU’s Academic Mentorship Program. The students shared what they would like to see changed in the world. Sixth-grader Lucas Ferreira said he would like to fix inequality with education so people could learn to treat all others nicely. “Just because people look different doesn’t mean they should be treated badly,” he said. His peers echoed his statements.

Poet and SHU student Gilberto GraVe Figueroa presented a piece, “When Will It Be Enough?” after which a musical trio featuring junior Katherine Horne sang, “I’ll Rise.”

Anita August, professor and director of SHU’s creative writing program, introduced the event’s keynote speaker, Kiese Laymon, an author and professor at Vassar College.

Laymon shared a piece he wrote specifically for the event. It was about his experiences growing up in Mississippi in the eighth grade. He talked about attending a predominately white Catholic school with his best friend after the predominantly black Catholic school he attended closed for lack of funding. Laymon recalled students and teachers treating him differently—even the same teachers who taught him at his old school. He said his mother reminded him every day to “be excellent and to be careful.” He touched on the topics of white supremacy and racism, and he ended by telling the audience, “We can’t explore what we swear doesn’t exist.” Laymon encouraged his audience to assess American power.

Laymon’s powerful remarks were followed by a reflection from SHU’s La Hispanidad organization, which unites students interested in Spanish and Latino heritage. Two students explored and deflected Spanish and Latino stereotypes, such as the thought that all Puerto Ricans are in gangs, or that a Spanish-speaking person is always Spanish.

Sacred Heart’s all-female choir, SHU L.O.V.E., performed a piece titled, “The Storm is Passing Over.” In addition, SHU’s Gay Straight Alliance, a club that promotes a safe environment for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students, offered a compelling performance. Students shared their experiences as members of the LGBT community, striving for acceptance.

Members of SHU’s African-American fraternity, Iota Phi Theta, wowed the audience with a step-and-stroll performance.

The audience also heard from professors Joe Alicastro and Madeleine Golda, who sang, “Change is Going to Come,” before Tarishi “M.I.D.N.I.G.H.T.” Shuler recited poetry. Shuler, who has performed at SHU in the past, took on the issues of racism and discrimination in his poems and also spoke about powerful women and the meaning behind his name.

The program was sponsored by the Office of Volunteer Programs & Service Learning, the College of Arts & SciencesCollege of Health ProfessionsCollege of NursingIsabelle Farrington College of Education and the Jack Welch College of Business.

To view additional photos from this event, click here