‘It’s ultimately about action’: Message remains as Wartburg College adapts MLK Day observation for 2021

Published: Jan. 18, 2021 at 9:52 PM CST
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WAVERLY, Iowa (KCRG) - For the last 20-plus years, Wartburg College has marked Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day by giving students a half-day of class, followed by an afternoon of volunteer opportunities.

This year, the college had to put its service work tradition on pause because of the pandemic, so it switched to emphasize education during its programming Monday.

“In the wake of everything that’s been going on in our country today, we really felt the need that we needed to provide some additional education, and students have wanted that,” Krystal Madlock, Wartburg’s director of multicultural student services, said.

Once classes wrapped up, Monday’s events started with an outdoor gathering to kick off the day, where Dean of Students Dan Kittle said that while this year’s commemoration of Dr. King’s birthday took a different approach, the message remained the same.

“It’s about celebrating Dr. King, it’s about understanding, and it’s ultimately about action,” Kittle told the students, faculty, and staff in attendance.

The rest of the afternoon and evening included training sessions over Zoom, a virtual music event, and a documentary film premiere — along with a scavenger hunt, a new addition this year. Posters with topics like, “Who Was John Lewis?” and “Understanding Black Lives Matter” hung throughout campus. Each included a QR code that students could scan with their phone, opening a link with more information on each subject.

When students accessed the link, they also found a “secret word” and could win a prize for putting all 10 clues together to form a quote from Dr. King: “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”

Carrington Bush, a junior from Alabama, said she hoped Monday’s events would inspire tough but necessary conversations on campus about race and injustice.

“In order to be comfortable, you first have to be uncomfortable, and I think that’s kind of a barrier that we all need to kind of breakthrough together,” Bush said.

Madlock said their goal was to spark a call to action and expand students’ awareness.

“A lot of times, unless you personally are affected by some of these issues of racial injustice and things, you don’t have to think about it,” Madlock said. “So I’m hoping it’s going to provide that initial awareness to students to know why these topics are so important to us personally, but also as an institution.”

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