Simpson College closes campus for Martin Luther King Jr. Day


Mo Marks

Emily Burns/Jessica Pierce making tie blankets on MLK Day for the CAB Community event

by Jenna Prather, Staff Writer

Simpson College gave campus the day off for the first time on Monday, Jan. 17, for the community to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Previously, classes were held on this day with an informational event in the middle of the day. Last year, no classes were held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as the college did not reopen from winter break until Jan. 18. 

Keyah Levy, Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, provided students with options on how to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Being that this is a recent change in policy, Simpson didn’t have any on-campus activities planned for the day, but Levy provided students with an email containing a list of ways to participate in the celebration. Some of these included:

        Host a departmental service event.

        Donate to your local food bank.

        Make hygiene kits for your local shelter.

        Virtually attend the 41st Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parade & Peace Walk.

        Talk about racial inequality, civil rights and social justice with family and friends.

        Watch a documentary or movie about Dr. King, civil rights or social justice.

        Watch or listen to Dr. King’s speeches.

Levy is also collaborating with the Student Government Association to bring the theatrical performance of  “Letters from Anne and Martin.”

“Many individuals do not know that they were born in the same year,” Levy said. “This performance is with someone depicting Anne Frank and someone depicting Dr. King. They are both on the stage at the same time talking about their respective experiences, by how they are similar. And how they kind of bounce off of each other to enact or to talk about their lives growing up.”

Developed from excerpts from “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” and Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” the play will evoke the important messages from both legendary figures’ lives through their writings.

Levy sent an email for students, faculty and staff to read about and register for the program. Registration is encouraged, but not required. Her email also said that this event is currently the college’s most requested program as it touches both students and adults of various backgrounds and demonstrates the universality of the human experience.  

“I thought it would be extremely important to bring that, especially knowing that our foundations course read that last semester,” Levy said. “The focus of the foundations course this semester is on diversity, equity and inclusion. I thought it would be extremely appropriate to bring that performance.”

The program will be held on Monday, Jan. 24 at 6 p.m. in the Black Box Theater in Kent.

The decision to not have classes held on this day was already in the works before Levy’s arrival to campus this year, but she advocated further for it once she began her position back in June.

“I think it came after knowing that this is a national holiday and is an effort to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. I think it was only right that we make sure we’re providing the campus community with an opportunity to observe the national holiday,” Levy said.

Leading by example, Levy said she spent the day watching some of the movies that she recommended.

“[I spent the day] reflecting on my position here and how I can contribute to advancing social justice as well as diversity, equity and inclusion,” Levy said.