Student-led panel discussion begins month of Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration events

The panel discussion was the first in a diverse lineup of events scheduled during Elon's month-long Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.

A discussion about race, diversity and the “American Dream” marked the start of Elon’s month of events celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dozens of Elon students, faculty and staff attended a campus gathering and panel discussion titled “The American Dream” inside the Moseley Center’s McKinnon Hall on Jan. 6. The panel featured Eukela Little ’22, Amy Zheng ’20, Jubitza Figueroa ’21 and Madison Holmes ’22. Derrick Luster ’20, a student coordinator in the area of black student success in the Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education, moderated the discussion.

Aligning with the theme of the event, the conversation focused on the “American Dream,” issues facing marginalized communities in their pursuit of that dream, and the importance of solidarity across races in helping all people achieve their goals.

“There’s no one direction of oppression; it goes back and forth,” said Zheng. “Everyone has a responsibility to start the conversation, to hear people out, to understand perspectives. That’s one way to step toward the idea of an ‘American Dream’ is to accept everyone for who they are and accept everything that has happened to different groups of people.”

Madison Holmes ’22 answers a question during the Jan. 6 panel discussion.

The discussion also focused on Elon’s role in providing students with resources to achieve their individual dreams and ways to continue improving the campus environment for all students.

“The professors and staff on campus are incredibly helpful when it comes to talking to students and just being there for us,” Figueroa said. “And events like this panel where students get to talk about their life experiences and their opinions on difficult topics I think gives us a voice and allows us to talk about what’s impacting us.”

Luster and other members of the CREDE worked to present the entirely student-organized event. He says it is crucial that students play a meaningful role in this and other campus discussions.

Derrick Luster ’20 moderates the discussion with panelists (left to right) Eukela Little ’22, Amy Zheng ’20, Jubitza Figueroa ’21 and Madison Holmes ’22.

“I think often within a university, it’s easy for the student voice to get lost,” he said. “I think it’s important that students have a platform to voice their concerns, their experiences, and I think it informs decisions made by professors and administrators in a much greater way.”

The community gathering and panel discussion served as the first event in Elon’s month-long Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration. The CREDE has organized a wide variety of events including discussions, service projects, and more to engage Elon students, faculty, staff and neighbors throughout the month of January.

“I think the MLK Celebration is a great way to start the calendar year,” said Brandon Bell, assistant director of the CREDE. “It’s a great way to start the Winter Term and spring semester, really thinking about our renewed personal commitment to issues of equity, diversity and inclusion.”

The theme of the 2020 MLK Celebration is “The American Dream,” inspired by King’s essay of the same name presented at Drew University on Feb. 5, 1964. In the speech, King cites racism, segregation, discrimination and violence as major deterrents to actualizing the American Dream for all.

The celebration will focus on anti-racism as essential in practice for democracy and the advancement of American society. The goal of each event is to advance the theoretical understanding of racism and explore its impact with the hope that this knowledge builds the capacity of participants to dismantle racism in all facets of modern society.

For a full list of 2020 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration events, click here.