IC Kicks Off MLK Week Celebration

By Dan Verderosa, January 24, 2019
Keynote speaker John Sims challenges Ithaca College community to create social change.

A weekend storm that dumped more than a foot of snow on South Hill could delay, but not stop, Ithaca College’s annual celebration of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. MLK Week 2019 kicked off on Tuesday, January 22, with a presentation by first-year students in the college’s Martin Luther King Scholars program and a keynote address by John Sims, a conceptual artist, writer and activist.

The presentation by first-year MLK Scholars featured their reflections on the group’s fall tour of important sites in the civil rights movement. In October 2018 the students took a trip through the South, visiting sites in Atlanta, Georgia, and Birmingham and Selma, Alabama, including the Civil Rights Museum, the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home.

In their presentation, the MLK Scholars drew connections between historical and modern forms of oppression used against people of color in the U.S., such as slavery and mass incarceration and lynching and police brutality.

Their presentation was followed by Sims’ keynote address, “A Blazing Grace: Space, Time and Justice.” Sims discussed the symbolism of the Confederate flag and how it has impacted people of color. He combined readings from his forthcoming memoir with related short films to present a dynamic journey of bearing witness, creative resistance and collective healing.

“As an artist and concerned citizen, I recognize the limits of art and politics in creating social change,” Sims said. “Real social change takes place on the dance floor, the concert halls, the classrooms, even the military.”

A man standing at a podium on stage

John Sims delivers the MLK Week keynote address. (Photo by Natalie Jenereski/Ithaca College)

Following his talk, Sims gave a presentation of various tracks from his music project, “AfroDixieRemixes.” Earlier in the day, he gave a multimedia presentation titled “Geometry of Justice: From MathArt to FlagArt.” The presentation explored two large social system art projects that examine and arbitrate the language and culture of oppositional symbols and identities.

MLK Week continues through Saturday, January 27. Events are free and open to the public.

2019 MLK Week Schedule

See the full schedule of MLK Week events at Ithaca.edu/news

Hannah Fitzpatrick ’21 contributed to this story.