LEWISTON — Bates College is once again hosting a series of community events to discuss, teach and reflect on the legacy of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

The theme is Decolonization and Liberation, and the event will open with a keynote panel of Maine-based thinkers, practitioners and activists, rather than the usual single speaker.

According to the college’s website, the theme was chosen “in recognition that ‘decolonization’ is not a single concept or practice, but rather represents a constellation of complementary — and occasionally conflicting — visions for liberation.”

The observance begins at 10 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 16, with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. interfaith service, to be viewed as a video on the multifaith chaplaincy webpage. Guest preacher is the Rev. Dr. Shively T. J. Smith, whose talk, titled “What’s in a Letter?”, will address Bates’ theme for MLK Day.

The keynote event will be held from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Monday, Jan. 17, and is titled “What We Mean When We Say.” The panel includes Hamza Abdi, Pious Ali, Jordia Benjamin, Maria Girouard and Julia Sleeper-Whiting, a Bates College graduate. It will be moderated by visiting assistant professor of Africana Cassandra Shepard.

Abdi hails from the east African nation of Djibouti and joined Bates’ Harward Center for Community Partnerships as assistant director of volunteer programs and community partnerships last year. Ali, who is a native of Ghana and has lived in Maine since 2002, is a Portland city councilor and is founding director of Portland Empowered. Benjamin is deputy director at Indigo Arts Alliance in Portland, Girouard is executive director of Wabanaki REACH, and Sleeper-Whiting is the co-founder and executive director of Tree Street Youth Center in Lewiston.

The keynote panel will be followed by three sessions of workshops scheduled until 4:30 p.m., including a panel discussion that starts at 10:45 a.m. featuring three Bates students presenting their experience studying the popular graphic adventure series, “Tintin,” by Georges Remi (Hergé) and its problematic colonial perspectives.

At 1:15 p.m., one of the sessions features Nicholas Buccola, a professor of political science at Linfield University in Oregon. He will make a brief presentation on his book, published in 2019, titled “The Fire is upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr., and the Debate over Race in America.” Audience questions will follow.

The session that starts at 3 p.m. includes a lecture titled, “Race Counts: Higher Education Demography and the History of the U.S. Census.” According to the description of the lecture, Dre (Andrea) Gager, associate director of institutional research, analysis and planning, will explore past and present harms perpetuated by federal demographic reporting, including the racist history of the U.S. Census from slavery to immigration policy, and the challenges demographic data collected through the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System pose for modern higher education institutions.

The 3 p.m. session will also include a workshop discussion on “Dawnland,” a film telling the story of the first official truth and reconciliation process in the U.S., which investigated decades of Wabanaki child removal in Maine, and excerpts from two books, “From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the 21st Century,” and “Redress: The Inside Story of the Successful Campaign for Japanese American Reparations.”

Registration is required for each event. For more information, and for links to attend the interfaith service and register for events, go to: bates.edu/mlk/.


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