Each year, Mercyhurst takes time to celebrate the legacy of one of the most influential figures of the 20th century: Martin Lu-ther King, Jr.Tyler Brentley, Mercyhurst Multicultural and Inclusion Coordinator, and Colin Hurley, Director of Community Engagement, worked together to give students opportunities to celebrate Martin Luther King Day both as members of the Mercyhurst and Erie communities.
With the holiday falling in mid-January each year, inclement weather is always a challenge for events honoring King’s legacy. For this reason, Brentley decided to host a breakfast and documentary session to celebrate the effect that King had on society as well as to inform students of the continuing impact of his work.
“Though a lot of what King accomplished was about 50-60 years ago now, it’s crazy to look back and see how we have progressed as a culture, but also some places where we have regressed,” Brentley said. “I feel like this was a very timely movie that was well received and appreciated by the Mercyhurst community.”
The event involved two documentaries of similar content on the legacy and impact of King’s work.
“I really just wanted to give people a glimpse into Dr. King’s life in case they didn’t know or hadn’t seen things about him in a while,” Brentley said.
The event had over 100 students, faculty and staff in attendance throughout the day, with a significant showing from four freshman iMU classes.
“I was very grateful for the support from the iMU classes because to have that focused attention on a day off of classes was really impressive in my opinion,” Brentley said.
As Brentley continued to host the documentary and discussion session in the Student Union, Hurley and a group of students participated in the 30th annual Martin Luther King Day March held in downtown Erie. The march began in Perry Square and ended at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center on Chestnut St.
“For me personally, the event also renews and reinvigorates my vocation with that sense of continuing to do and strive to do that unfinished work that MLK dedicated much of his life in working towards justice,” Hurley said. “The MLK march might have one name, but it has many people, voices and perspectives. It’s an annual event that brings together people with hopes and dreams.”
According to a report by Erie News Now, there were around 250 attendees at the march despite the cold temperatures.
“The march has become more and more about solidarity, about reconnecting with others in Erie and about renewing a commitment to a holistic sense of community and a march for peace and justice for all,” Hurley said. “MLK’s work towards justice and belief in nonviolence is something the Sisters of Mercy also believe. The march renews a sense of pride in being an American citizen and a local resident.”
Brentley and Hurley have already started planning to make next year’s event bigger and more inclusive for the campus.
“Overall, the day went really well and I am looking forward to next year to expand and do bigger and better things,” Brentley said. “Hopefully we can highlight MLK day with an entire week with some extended programming with the opportunity for more people to be involved. I was very pleased and humbled by the attendance we got this year.”