On Monday afternoon, more than 100 people gathered on the Diag for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Symposium’s 12th annual Circle of Unity, hosted by the Michigan Community Scholars Program.
The event honored Dr. King’s commitment to unity, peace and racial justice, and featured several musical and spoken-word performances which hinged on audience participation. Detroit native Julie Beutel and Joe Reilly, a University of Michigan alum, headlined the event, performing songs about solidarity and strength.
MCSP Associate Director Wendy Woods spoke about the importance of the Circle of Unity to the MCSP community as well as Ann Arbor residents. She said it inspires her to see so many people coming to the event despite the weather.
“This event started around 12 years ago because students wanted to have a chance to come together on Martin Luther King Day, and be very visible about the fact that it was important for the community, students and greater Washtenaw County area to show solidarity about how they feel about this day,” Woods said. “You hear a lot of speakers and that’s wonderful, but we love coming and seeing all these other folks out here as well no matter what the weather is. It’s invigorating, and gives you a good feeling.”
LSA freshman Kayla Kane enjoyed hearing about current students’ experiences at an event celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.
“I loved the poetry,” Kane said. “Not only was I shivering from the cold, but also from what they were saying because it was really moving for me. I thought it was very important; if we don’t bring attention to the issues happening on campus and in the world then nothing’s going to change.”
LSA freshman Ben Schuster, who volunteered at the event, spoke about the sense of solidarity the Circle of Unity encouraged, and the importance of student attendance.
“It highlights the importance of diversity,” Schuster said. “I think it’s important that we recognize Martin Luther King Jr. for all that he did. A lot of students are busy with school and everything, but I think it’s really great that they took the time to come together with the Circle of Unity and recognize that there’s a lot we can do and that we can all stand together in solidarity.”
LSA sophomore Tosin Adeyemi said she appreciated the symposium as a whole because it gave her the chance to learn more about Dr. King and reflect on her own experiences.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to use this day as not just a day off of classes, but to just pause and reflect on the opportunities that so many people before us like MLK and other activists have set a trail for, and the freedom we have to go to this school, learn from each other and be on a diverse campus,” Adeyemi said.