To honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the UM Division of Diversity and Community Engagement hosted its annual MLK Day of Service on Monday. All events were centered around one theme: “A Vision of Love and Service.”
The celebration began on Saturday with a community reading of “Letter from Birmingham Jail” at Off Square Books, then continued on Monday with a community breakfast and march at Second Missionary Baptist Church. The office also hosted a variety of community service projects and showed three films focusing on the Civil Rights movement at the Powerhouse.
Matt Wymer, associate director of the Oxford Film Festival, said the importance of having the day of service and showing the films is to honor King’s goals of uniting the community.
“We are all about community, and community is made up of everybody,” Wymer said. “That’s what Dr. King knew, and that’s what he worked to do, to help incorporate both sides of the tracks, all of the people that live in an area to be a part of the same thing. At Oxford Film Fest, that’s our goal, to unite the community.”
The Oxford Film Festival featured three films, two from the Southern Foodways Alliance “Counter Histories” series and a third from the UM Theatre Dept.
The SFA “Counter Histories” series profiled the lunch counter sit-ins of the 1960s. Both films focus on the role of civil disobedience in combating racism in Nashville, Tenn., and Jackson, Miss.
The third film, “Moving Spirits: History of the Enslaved & Civil Rights: Through Movement, Dance & Song,” was produced by Jennifer Mizenko and Rhondalyn Peairs of the UM Theatre Dept. It tells the story of the enslaved persons who constructed buildings on the UM campus by using interpretive dance methods.
Sarah Hennigan, assistant professor of film production at the university, edited “Moving Spirits.” She said the film is powerful because it allows those involved to use their dancing to tell a vital story in their own way.
“We can’t even begin to approach finding a better place if we can’t recognize the history behind us. This film not only helps to tell a story that needs to be told, but it helps to let people tell it themselves,” Hennigan said.
The film showing was one of several events where community members volunteered to honor King Jr. Participants contributed to service projects across the Oxford and Lafayette County area.
Brenda Slayden, a volunteer on behalf of Oxford Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, helped serve popcorn at the film showing. She said that it was important to her to take Dr. King’s contributions to society and pay them forward.
“What a wonderful day to volunteer,” she said. “Today is especially important, because of Martin Luther King and the service that he gave, so it’s a privilege to give up our time and to be a part of this. It gives you pause.”