Students and faculty members gathered to celebrate the beginning of Eastern Michigan University’s celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his accomplishments. Coming off the end of a march, the excited students and faculty who participated were greeted with food and a showcase of artwork from members of the community and students of EMU, with the latter hoping to receive one of three $500 scholarships.
“I want to thank those of you who were with us on the walk,” said Dr. James Smith, president of EMU. “This is a great opportunity to reflect on 33 years of celebrating Dr. King’s message on campus.”
The showcase featured art from EMU students who were competing for one of the scholarships as well as art coming from the community, schools and EMU alumni.
Eric Reed, who is the director of TRiO Student Support Services, was one of the people involved in putting this event together. He was able to explain how this artwork came to be showcased.
“Last semester we asked students to submit a proposal and sketch online of what their project would be, and the main thing it needed is to connect to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King,” said Reed. “We had four student participants, but this year we had an increase of community support from Ypsilanti Community Schools as well as alumni and other members of the community.”
“I think it is really cool that they put this event together for student artists,” said senior Josh Smith, who was one of the artists at the event. “It gives us a chance to showcase our work. The opportunity to re-instill MLK’s vision through a piece of work can be seen as a challenge, but also something fun to do as an artist. I get a lot of enjoyment out of this, whatever message it is, through art.”
The other students who submitted work were freshman Katelyn Morrison, senior Kelsey Wallace and junior Michelle Walsh. They were awarded certificates for their participation, and the winners will be announced during the week of Jan. 21.
EMU’s art program is very expansive with the College of Arts and Sciences covering over 113 different undergraduate programs, giving students the ability to express themselves. Art is used as a way of defining not only itself, but as well as the university as a whole.
“The art is varied here, there are some here that are very traditional [art], things that are very abstract, and a lot of color that draws your eyes,” Smith said. “I was impressed with the quality of the work…and people are enjoying walking around and seeing it, so I think it represents campus in the idea that it is diverse, and there is a lot of innovation in the art. The creative element is very important to who we are and what we will continue to do.”
The event ended with a preview of what is to come on Friday night, Jan. 18, when EMU’s Poetry Society has their Color of Drums with a performance. The poet, who would like to be referred to as Mack, is an electronic media and film major with a minor in communication and marketing. His two poems “Jerk, Chicken, Pasta” and “Something Forgettable” were performed in honor of King.
“When it comes to celebrating a successful martyr and living the everyday experience, there is a duality with that,” Mack said. “Celebrating MLK is very important to me. While he may not have supported other parts of my lifestyle, he paved the way for me…this is very important that I get to [speak] at an event that celebrates him.”
Mack has been doing poetry for two years now and put on a performance at the art showcase that had audience members in tears with the emotion put behind Mack’s words.
“It makes me feel like he is a part of me along with the likes of Rosa Parks, Madame CJ Walker and Harriet Tubman, and every successful black leader there ever was,” Mack said. “It makes me feel possible.”