Civil rights teach-in highlights important topics surrounding diversity, inclusion and equity

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. bust. (Benjamin Voller | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State’s Diversity and Multicultural Student Affairs celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Observance Week Jan. 22-28. The week-long celebration featured several events, including a day of service, diversity awards, film screenings and more.

Wednesday, Jan. 26, marked the 8th annual MLK Civil Rights Teach-In event.

The teach-in gave students, faculty, staff and anyone interested in joining the chance to learn about the historical context of Kansas’ origins, the Kaw Nation Treaty Project, the Gordon Park’s Project and several plays written by women of color.

The first portion of the event was led by Lisa Tatonetti, professor of cultural studies in the Department of English, and Mary Kohn, associate professor in the Department of English.

The main focus of their discussion was K-State land acknowledgment and the Kaw Nation Treaty Project.

Kohn said because she is a linguist, she likes to focus on the etymological meaning of names of places such as Manhattan and Topeka, Kansas, because they say a lot more about the region than we realize.

“Places’ names go back to a complex history that maps today do not show,” Kohn said.

Through discussion and student-led research projects, the event leaders showed how much land was ceded from the Kaw Nation by the government during westward expansion.

Tatonetti said that this still happens to Native Americans today, but that people can help in several ways.

“Students can attend events, take classes, follow Indigenous leaders and news outlets and take action,” Tatonetti said.

Kyle Ruder, senior in journalism, attended the teach-in and said he thought Kohn’s take on the etymological meanings of names of places was an interesting perspective.

“I thought the website resources they used that showed the meaning of a city’s name was interesting,” Ruder said. “There is so much history that most of us do not know about in the places we live, and this was one way to learn more about that.”

The second portion of the discussion focused on the works of Gordon Parks, a Black photographer, author, musician and film director most well known for photojournalism.

Katherine Karlin, associate professor in the Department of English, and Cameron Leader-Picone, associate professor and interim director of graduate studies in the Department of English, displayed Parks’ work and the historical context behind it.

The event concluded with Shannon Skelton, associate professor in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance, talking about prominent Black playwrights including Kia Corthron, Lynn Nottage and Suzan-Lori Parks.

Skelton discussed their work and the messages surrounding life as a Black person. The discussion also included performances from K-State students.

More information about MLK observance can be found on the Diversity and Multicultural Affairs tab on K-State’s website. Recordings of some of the virtual events are also available on this page.

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Hey! I’m Maddie Daniel and I am a junior in mass communications. This semester, I'm the assistant culture editor and have previously served as a staff writer. After I graduate, I plan to go to law school to pursue a career in Federal Indian Law. I love art, history and anything outdoors.