A large poster lay stretched on the wall, scrawled with colorful words and phrases:
“Dreams do come true, amen!!”
“We should all start making beautiful biracial children.”
“Why can’t we all get along?”
“Violence = progress”
“Why is it only 500 African-Americans at NU?” “Because most don’t speak correct English.”
About 30 students gathered in the Foster-Walker Complex lounge to discuss the question posed on the poster: “What would Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. say about race relations at Northwestern?” The same question was debated at four different dorms in a series called “Community Conversations,” one of the many scheduled MLK Day events.
“This is a safe space so feel free to voice your unadulterated opinion as long as it’s constructive,” said moderator Adrienne Williams. “We value, not judge.”
Williams, a Weinberg junior, is also on the MLK Day committee and helped organize the event to encourage open dialogue about race relations at NU.
“Progress is being made, but there are still underlying issues about race relations,” Williams said. “To say we’re not making strides is a false statement, but the fact that you have to designate a special day still speaks to the fact that there is a problem.”
Students voiced their opinions about issues such as self-segregation on campus, the lack of diversity in the Greek system, interracial relationships, the social/racial hierarchy within Northwestern, and finally getting the Martin Luther King Jr. Day completely off.
Weinberg senior Summar Lyons said she was attracted to the event by the colorful poster where students had attempted to answer the main question, and said she came away with a better sense of what students thought.
“It was interesting to get a range of perspectives, to listen to that [conversation] because it’s a great way to actually think about it,” Lyons said. “There are so many activities to commemorate [King Jr.] so forums like this can continue to bring about dialogue.”
The event lasted an hour and a half, and students conversed freely. Weinberg sophomore Chad Watkins said he believed it is important for students to talk about race relations at Northwestern.
“It’s an open, honest discussion that needs to be addressed on this campus desperately,” Watkins said. “Northwestern has so many people from so many cultures. We’re not doing a good enough job to branch out because you can have so many great experiences here and we’re only here four years.”
Williams agrees that the most important thing to do is to get out the message.
“If we touch 20 people, it’s great because they’ll talk to their friends and then it’s a trickle down effect,” Williams said.