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Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Fixing the Jericho Road

By Lee Smithey

I hope everyone finds an opportunity to reflect and take some sort of action (or preparation for action) in pursuit of justice and peace on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

While the nation focuses on service, I am usually drawn on this day to Dr. King’s speech, “Beyond Vietnam.” Public schools are closed today, and I sit in my office at home listening to the speech with my daughter (11 yrs old). I am amazed and touched that we can listen to this together knowing that Alison had the opportunity to meet Dr. Vincent Harding (who wrote the speech for King) at Pendle Hill shortly before his death in 2014.

This speech at Riverside Church was one of King’s most important and controversial speeches because he spoke against the War in Vietnam, drawing the ire of nationalists and even allies, who felt King should remain focused on domestic racial injustices. This was the address during which King decried “the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism.”

It is with such activity that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” [applause] Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on to the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin [applause], we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see than an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.  

Let’s also remember that this year is the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination, exactly one year to the day after he delivered the Beyond Vietnam speech. (Stay tuned for announcements about commemorative events at the College this spring.) I hope to get a few minutes today to make a bit more progress through Michael K. Honey’s book, Going Down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King’s Last Campaign. On the night before he was killed, as he delivered another momentous speech about the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike, King was again talking about both service (using the parable of the Good Samaritan and emphasizing fixing the dangerous Jericho Road itself.

What a humbling challenge. It is a privilege to share this day with you, and I look forward to the coming semester as we renew our work together.

 

Dialogue Across Differences in Faith and World View

From the Tri-Co Courageous Conversations Planning Committee:

We warmly invite you to an interfaith conference taking place at Bryn Mawr College on February 1 and 2, 2018:

“Courageous Conversations: Equipping Ourselves for Dialogue Across Differences in Faith and World View”

The conference will equip participants to frame useful questions that allow them to deeply listen, moving beyond “us vs. them” and hearing the personal fears, desires and experiences of others. A thoughtful speaker, case studies, and practical techniques will be part of the program.

The program includes a Thursday evening dinner and speaker, followed by Friday workshops. There will be a break for Jummah (Muslim prayers) and an optional Shabbat service at the end of the day on Friday. Staff and faculty are welcome to attend parts or all of the program. There is no cost. This is supported by InterFaith Youth Core, the organization that brought Eboo Patel to our campus in November.

If you plan on coming fill this out: https://brynmawr.wufoo.com/forms/courageous-conversations/

During the planning process, the committee was intentional about choosing a start that would make it convenient for Swat students, faculty and staff to attend (see schedule below) .

Tri-Co shuttle from Swat schedule.

  • Feb 1 at 4:50 (if you want good food at BM) or 6:40 (if you come for the keynote speaker)
  • Feb 2 at 8:30 AM (if you want a HOT breakfast and participate in workshops) or 1:05 PM (if you want to participate in afternoon workshops)

For more information, contact Eishna Ranganathan at erangan1 or Joyce Tompkins at jtompki1

NEW Friends, Peace, and Sanctuary course on refugees and art

As part of the College’s Friends, Peace, and Sanctuary project, supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, the Peace and Conflict Studies program will sponsor a related half-credit course in the spring.

  • In what ways can engaging with art inspire conversations, change perspectives, or increase empathy?

  • How might sharing personal experiences through the process of making art about migration, displacement or refuge increase our senses of belonging?

  • How might historic stories of displacement impact understandings of our current moment?

In this half-credit engaged scholarship course,  taught by College Librarian Peggy Seiden and Dr. Katie Price (Lang Center), students will (a) conduct primary and secondary research related to resettled individuals (refugees) living in Philadelphia, (b) conduct archival research related to questions of displacement, empathy, and belonging, and (c) conduct primary and secondary research on artists’ books. Additionally, students will be required to volunteer for at least one book artist workshop (taking place on Sundays in Philadelphia, exact dates and times TBD) during the term. This course is tied to Friends, Peace, and Sanctuary, a two-year project funded by The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage that brings renowned book artists into conversation with Syrian and Iraqi individuals who have resettled to Philadelphia. Students will be working with and learning directly from project collaborators, and their work will be shared publicly on the Friends, Peace, and Sanctuary website and may also be published or exhibited in Spring 2019.

Seats are limited. If you are interested in taking this course, please email a short paragraph about why you are interested to kprice1 and pseiden1.

Faculty Votes Unanimously to Approve Regular Major in Peace and Conflict Studies

Following the unanimous vote of the faculty, the College has now formally approved a Regular Major in Peace and Conflict Studies here at Swarthmore. Toward the end of the 19th century (1888 to be exact), the first course in peace studies anywhere in the world was taught here at Swarthmore, and our program was established in 1991. The Peace Collection and Friends Historical Library have been supporting peace research since 1930 and 1871 respectively. Now, the study of peace and conflict has been formally incorporated into the College’s curriculum!

Congratulations!

Human Rights Hummus: A Podcast Produced by Peace and Conflict Studies Alumni

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Swarthmore Peace and Conflict Studies recent graduates Lily Tyson and Marissa Cohen have already produced three episodes of their new podcast, “Human Rights Hummus: Voices of the Holy Land.”

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Lily and Marissa interview Israelis and Palestinians and record their stories, teaching listeners “what their lives are like and about what is going on with this occupation today, as they experience it.”

Swarthmore College, the Lang Center for Civic & Social Responsibility,  and Prof. Sa’ed Atshan of the Peace and Conflict Studies program all proudly support Lily and Marissa on this project!

Check out their website here.

Swarthmore Peace and Conflict Studies Students in the News

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Peace and Conflict Studies special major Maria Castaneda ’18 and Peace and Conflict Studies minor Michael Nafziger ’18 were recently featured in the news.

Read Maria’s story related to President Trump’s order ending the DACA program here.
“From Mexico to Swarthmore, a dream now in danger”

Follow Michael’s involvement in our community in the wake of the alt-right controversy in Charlottesville, VA here.
“Swarthmore Community Reflects on Charlottesville at Collection”