Tommy Carroll Armstrong ’20
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MLK Week Presentation Connects Civil Rights and Disability Rights

An interactive “Lunch and Learn” discussion examining the correlation of Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights work to disability advocacy was among the highlights of the college’s annual weeklong celebration of King and the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement.

HomepageNewsMLK Week Presentation Connects Civil Rights and Disability Rights

Rev. Jessica Hainley of Quentin United Church of Christ led the discussion titled, “The Dream Continues: An Approach to Reverend Dr. King’s Work Through the Lens of Disability, Access, and Inclusion.” The hour focused on King’s important work with a reflection on the work that continues to promote inclusivity and equity for all. “We are called to care for one another,” said Hainley.

Noting the similar paths between civil rights and disability rights, Hainley provided a high-level overview of the evolution of disability acceptance and support in the United States, beginning with the marginalization of individuals with disabilities as far back as the 1800s. She also discussed the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, as well as the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the work he did to make the White House more accessible.

Hainley noted the wide impact that King’s work inspired. “The civil rights movement began under Martin Luther King Jr., and disability advocates saw an opportunity to join together with other minoritized individuals to demand equal treatment, equal access, and equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities,” she said. “The LGBTQ community banded together as well during this time … and the women’s movement also took action during this time.”

Dee Singley, director of disability services and 504 coordinator, helped organize the event. “Some would say we have come so far in terms of protecting and advocating for people with disabilities, and yet we have so much more work to do,” said Singley. “It’s important to continue the difficult, but necessary work towards understanding what it means to view disability from a social model lens. That work will require us to dismantle the same systems that were built to protect. These systemic injustices rather created barriers, infusing the continuance of ‘other’ or ‘difference’ and thus allowing injustices towards people with disabilities to continue.”

The hour was just one highlight in a week providing more than two dozen opportunities for the Ursinus community to engage in impactful activities, conversations, and reflection. In keeping with tradition, the week began with the college’s MLK Day of Service, organized by UCARE (Ursinus Center for Advocacy, Responsibility and Engagement). Students, staff, and faculty participated in activities with the American Red Cross; the Center for Culture, Art, Training, and Education (CCATE); Worthwhile Thrift; Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy; Phoenixville Women’s Outreach; and Perkiomen Valley Middle School. Scroll to the end of this story to view a photo gallery featuring highlights from the day.

Abby Peabody ’22 of Write Away, Liv Negro ’23 of Reimagine Ursinus, and Grace Harris ’23 of Wismer on Wheels were among those who led virtual lightning talks that spotlighted ways the Ursinus community can get involved with service throughout the spring semester.

Juliet Vinegra, a member of the Philadelphia Museum of Art Union, joined Lauren McCardel, executive director of the Berman Museum, on Tuesday for a conversation regarding labor movements in U.S. museums; and additional lightning talks featured Assistant Professor of Philosophy and the Humanities and Associate Dean for Civic Learning Christian Rice, Associate Professor and Chair of History Ed Onaci, Vice President for Inclusion and Community Engagement Heather Lobban-Viravong, Director of Community Engagement and Student Programs Todd McKinney, Director of Sustainability Kate Keppen, Caden Johnson ’25, and Te-ojah Dennison-Morgan ’25.

Remaining events include:

Jan. 19

Screening of the film Till
Lenfest Theater at 4, 7, and 9:30 p.m.
Join us for multiple screenings of the 2022 film about the 1955 murder of Emmett Till. Presented by the Beloved Community Committee, the Institute for Inclusion and Equity, and the Ursinus Department of Athletics. A Conversations About and Across Difference lunch will follow on Friday.

Jan. 20

Radiance Peer Connections – “No Name Calling” Pledge
Lower Wismer (all day)
The members of Radiance Peer Connections invite the campus community to sign the “No Name Calling Pledge” by stopping at the table in Lower Wismer.

Conversations About and Across Difference: Till Film Reflection
Bears’ Den at noon
Director of the Institute for Inclusion and Equity Ashley Henderson and Associate Athletic Director for Compliance, Student Athlete Services Marqus Hunter will lead a discussion regarding Thursday’s screenings of the film Till.

Jan. 21

Women’s and Men’s Basketball Doubleheader
Floy Lewis Bakes Center at 1 p.m.
Join us as we dedicate this event to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. through presentations at halftime and between games as the men’s and women’s basketball teams compete against McDaniel College.

Jan. 22

The Beloved Community MLK Week Interfaith Service: His Words Still Speak
Bomberger Hall at 3 p.m.
The service will feature music, song, readings, and guest speakers, including President Robyn Hannigan and Rabbi Gregory S. Marx, senior rabbi at Temple Beth Or, Ambler, Pa. A reception will follow in the Berman Museum of Art.

DAY OF SERVICE PHOTO GALLERY

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