January 16 commemorates the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister and leader in the American civil rights movement. Learn how Lafayette faculty and staff are using this important day to reflect on Dr. King’s efforts to influence racial equality and social change. 


Louise Frazier stands outside on a porch.“The work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is unquestionably critical to history but resonates on a very intimate level in my life. Every year, on or about Jan. 16, our family chooses to honor Dr. King by also honoring the experiences and sacrifices of my in-laws. While it does not take a holiday to do so, it is a day/time my in-laws (now in their 80s) have come to freely express and share snapshots of lived experiences which have been kept under psychological lock and key for decades. The Fraziers are two of many people who lived in and through a very segregated South during formative years of their lives. While they are incredibly private people, it has become more important than ever for our family to sit in their experience in whatever way they want to share, to recognize our privilege, and to move in life understanding the broad shoulders we stand on, which intimately includes theirs. The truth is that our family is one and two generations removed from the experiences of Mr. and Mrs. Frazier, and there is so much to learn from them, including lessons on truth, love, forgiveness, and service.

“As my children have become adults, gathering has become a scheduling nightmare. However, the commitment to connect (and technology) brings us together. So this year, my in-laws have zeroed in on the importance of being ‘in’ service on a regular basis—not for external validation, and certainly not for one day. To them, being ‘in’ service is not performative and is in everyday acts of kindness, building people up, reaching back to pull up, and education. So that’s what I’ll keep doing. 

“The church is, no doubt, where Mrs. Frazier draws her peace and so, too, will I by attending a 7 p.m. service at Greater Shiloh Church in Easton on Monday, Jan. 16. This year’s Dr. King quote chosen by our family is: ‘Not everybody can be famous, but everyone can be great because greatness is determined by service; you only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.’ I encourage you to join me and be ‘in’ service as a regular practice. It will do the world good.” Louise Frazier, associate director of admissions and coordinator of student success

S. Abu Turab Rizvi smiles“For me, the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday is a time for reflection. It comes at a time when we typically plan for the new year, in the pause between semesters. The dazzling words and magnetic personality of Dr. King serve a larger purpose, which is to shake us out of inaction and spur us toward activities that bring greater justice to long-denied people through peaceful means. I will spend the holiday figuring out how to align my work with that worthy purpose.”  S. Abu Turab Rizvi, professor of economics

Charlotte Nunes smiles, holding her child in her arms at Skillman Library.“I look forward to attending the NAACP MLK Award banquet this Sunday, which will be a joyful occasion to celebrate exciting contributions to our community locally. On Monday, I’ll observe the holiday with my husband and two small boys, who are 1 and 2.  Although they’re still very young, I think it’s important to take this day for reflection on the legacy of MLK Jr., and to honor the ongoing movement for equity and racial justice.  As they get older, I look forward to establishing a tradition where we participate in acts of service on this holiday.” Charlotte Nunes, director of digital scholarship services

Jaison Freeman smiles

“The desire to be perfect, to be momentous, to have seismic impact, while noble, can sometimes have the unintended consequence of paralyzing and ultimately resulting in inaction. As I reflect upon the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and what it means to me, I am inspired by his resolve to be a leader and tireless agent for equity, inclusion, and the celebration of difference. I am particularly struck by this MLK quote:

‘Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.’

“I appreciate this statement because it highlights that we all have different roles to play at different times, and that they are all important. Everything that we do does not have to be perfect in order for us to have a positive impact. We do, however, have a responsibility to work within our sphere of influence to make change in whatever ways that we can. I am inspired to honor Dr. King’s legacy on a daily basis by reminding myself of the potential impact of even small acts, and the fact that one person really can make a difference, even if it does not always feel that way. We must, however, maintain the resolve to try to do something, consistently, to spread love and distribute positive energy into the campus and world community.” Jaison Freeman, special assistant to the vice president for campus life

“The sacrifices made by Martin Luther King are never lost on me. It is because of those sacrifices that my family and I, and countless others in this country are able to sit where we want to sit, work where we want to work, and live as freely as Dr. King dreamt. The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday is a time for me to reflect on that and realize how far we’ve come, yet with much more work to be done. Part of my reflection on this holiday will be continued education with a trip to Harriet’s Bookshop in Philadelphia, which is a Black-owned bookstore in Philadelphia that I have supported for years. Continuing to learn about the struggle of the civil rights movement and attempt to put his teachings in place will continue to be a goal of mine. Dr. King’s quote ‘Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education’ is a tenet that I will always strive to adhere to and honor not only on Jan. 16 but the entire year.”  Micah Simms, assistant director of major gifts

LaKitha Murray smiles“Dr. Martin Luther King said, ‘Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.’ I have and am always driven by how I can serve others and provide better services and experiences for them through service, activism, or advocacy. I have been fortunate to experience various opportunities because of the activism and support I have had in my community. This year for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I will be participating in the College’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service event. I will be volunteering with the Office of Sustainability, sorting items at the thrift store. I am always honored to be able to give back in any way that I can and hope the items offered will be able to serve and have a positive impact on someone’s life.”  LaKitha Murray, senior associate athletic director for administration

Nandini Sikand side profile“Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy goes well beyond his ‘I have a dream’ speech.  For me, there is a danger in misreading his legacy as a watered-down and revisionist version of safe social consciousness that gets trotted out one weekend a year. A more accurate reading of King’s work is one that includes an ongoing and robust critique of capitalism and ‘the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism’ For King, racism was always intertwined with the economies of warfare (domestic and international) and inequalities enshrined in capitalism. 

“King called the civil rights movement ‘revolutionary times’ but also just a ‘foothold’— these times, too, are similar. Honoring King’s legacy fully would mean addressing the abundance of poverty, military spending at new heights, and ongoing carcerality in day-to-day spaces. It would mean going beyond the symbolism of a hagiographic eulogy and actively working toward the redistribution of wealth, the abolition of poverty, an end to militarism in myriad forms, and most importantly, liberation for all.”   Nandini Sikand, professor of film and media studies

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