Karl Constant leads a prayer at the beginning of North Central College's MLK Day.

North Central News

MLK Vision Day program encourages change and action

Jan 16, 2024

In honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, the North Central College Office of Multicultural Affairs hosted the annual MLK Vision Day and Teach-In on January 15 in the Wentz Science Center. Despite subzero weather conditions, the event saw a turnout that included faculty, staff, alumni, elected officials, local residents and friends of the College, with students making up one-third of the registered attendees. Notable guests included U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, Naperville Mayor Scott Wehrli ’91, and Judge John Anderson of the Illinois Circuit Court (see first photo below). 

Karl Constant, assistant director of multicultural affairs, officially opened the program at 11:00 a.m., in memory of King’s visit to North Central College beginning at the same time of day on Nov. 21, 1960. Constant welcomed attendees and introduced Voices of Praise, North Central’s student-led gospel choir, for the first of several performances throughout the day (see second photo below).

President Anita Thomas, Representative Bill Foster, and other dignitaries.
Voices of Praise, North Central College's student-led gospel choir.

Voices of Praise

The event’s traditional prayer luncheon featured a keynote address from Carlos G. Rodriguez, one of the quad-chairs of the Illinois Poor People’s Campaign, an organization that advocates for policy changes to improve the lives of those living below the poverty line, regardless of race. He reviewed the Campaign’s history, including the inspiration it draws from King, and highlighted the many actions the Campaign is involved in to bring about a revival of devotion to the rights of the poor. 

Rodriguez quoted the Campaign’s founders and their desire for a new devotion to the rights of the poor, saying, "We need a moral movement across the nation.  A movement that is about the moral fabric of our society, guided by a deep moral and Constitutional vision of what is possible."

Content creator and influencer Raven Schwam-Curtis gave the closing keynote address. She talked about the potential of the digital space as a tool for what she called “the collective liberation of marginalized communities.” Schwam-Curtis cited several primary tenets of liberation including true care over performative allyship, truth and accountability, and modeling the behavior we want to see in the world.

She gave examples to illustrate how racial micro-aggressions are prevalent in digital media due to the relative anonymity of posting to social sites and in comments. She stressed the importance of maintaining civility and positivity in response to such aggression. 

“You must be disciplined enough in your character, particularly when you are challenged or triggered, that you can be disciplined in your communication,” Schwam-Curtis said.

The day included two teach-in sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Attendees could choose from several seminars with speakers from North Central exploring the theme of “Normalcy, never again!” Each session took a different look at the Poor People’s Campaign and Dr. King’s shared “Everybody in, nobody out” approach to working for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging and how it echoes even now. Some of the presenters were current students and young alumni. As they explored issues relevant to their development as leaders, they displayed their knowledge and ability to dialogue about creating positive change. 

Raven Schwam-Curtis

Raven Schwam-Curtis