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College Coffee celebrates MLK's messages on human rights

Elon University hosted a photo exhibit Tuesday in Moseley Center as students, faculty and staff gathered for a special College Coffee, part of a series of events this month to commemorate the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The special College Coffee was part of a series of programs this month honoring the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Visitors to the student lounge inside Moseley Center were greeted midday Tuesday with a photo exhibit of self-portraits by men and women in Bahrain who used the camera to share personal reflections and views at a time three years ago when the Arab Spring roiled their nation.

The exhibit, on display during a special College Coffee commemorating the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was part of a series of January programs focused on the slain civil rights leader’s message of human rights and economic justice for all people regardless of race, creed or nationality.

Sponsored by the Office of Student Activities, the Jan. 14 “Beloved Community College Coffee” featured donuts and coffee, remarks by the North Carolina artist who helped create the exhibit, and a trivia contest where  students won books after answering questions about King's life.

Photographer Todd Drake

Artist and photographer Todd Drake also shared with his audience the origins of the photography exhibit, “Bahrain: Another Spring,” and how the people who took part in a class he led there in 2011 were in a very real sense risking their freedom and safety as the government cracked down on pro-democracy protesters.

“In a country with no guarantee of freedom of speech, these students went out on a limb to speak out,” Drake said in a separate interview. “In our country with that freedom, what are we willing to do to speak out (about human rights)? On MLK Day, that’s a relevant question.”

This was the second year Drake appeared at Elon University for the MLK College Coffee program. An artist with an interest in documenting the lives of the marginalized, he is the recipient of a Rockefeller Fellowship and numerous Fulbright-Hayes and Department of Education grants, according to his website.

Dozens of students viewed self-portraits by men and women in Bahrain who used photography three years ago to share their stories as the Arab Spring came to their country.

Drake has displayed his work across the United States and internationally including exhibitions in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. He is a graduate of the University of North Carolina with an MFA in painting from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro

“(This exhibit) helps you think about human rights and social justice in a way that’s non-threatening by using art, which is why I think students like him,” Melissa Jordan ‘04, interim director of the university’s Multicultural Center, said of Drake's work. “And this helps students see how they can tell their own stories or share thoughts important to them by using imagery.”

The King celebrations continue on campus Wednesday at noon with several professors, staff and students reading excerpts from King’s renowned speeches and letters. The readings take place on the front terrace of the Moseley Center overlooking Young Commons.


Eric Townsend,
1/14/2014 4:15 PM