In February, Cornell University hosted their 2016 Martin Luther King Commemorative Lecture at the Sage Chapel. Wells Associate Professor of Women's Studies Lisa Hall opened up the opportunity to the Wells community, and two vans of students including those in the Mass Media and Society course made the trip.
The program began with the singing group Baraka Kwa Wimbo, whose remarkable rendition of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" showed every intention to lift their voices and brought forth a sense of hope in the room. With the room almost filled to its seating capacity, the lights and design in the chapel glimmered off of the performers and speakers. Reverend Kenneth I. Clarke Sr., Director of Cornell United Religious Work (CURW), and Ryan Lombardi, Vice President of Student and Campus Life gave opening remarks, and the Community Unity Music Education program performed to a version of "Strange Fruit" wearing white shirts with "100% human" and "Black Lives Matter" written on them.
Ayisha McHugh '16, a student in Cornell's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, stood on the podium and performed a poem about the past and present issues of African Americans. She honored the names of Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin and took a moment to name other Black victims whose lives were taken by the police.
Black Lives Matter founders Alicia Garza and Opal Tometii were joined by Janaya Kahn, International Ambassador for the #BlackLivesMatter Network in Canada. These women led a panel discussion moderated by Sean Eversley-Bradwell at the end of the program and left the audience in awe throughout. Many issues were brought to attention such as white supremacy, anti-black racism, self care, and more. The audience were also given the chance to ask the panelists questions, which focused on the purpose of the Black Lives Matter movement. Opal responded, "Love truly drives it all."
Wells students were inspired to bring back the information back to campus, and they held a debriefing that was open to the campus.