Fighting the fires of social and racial unrest

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To honor the memory of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and recognize those on campus who actively live out his vision, George Mason University will host the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Evening of Reflection and awards ceremony on Thursday, Jan. 28, at 6 p.m. via Zoom.

“This year, it is particularly important to continue on with the Evening of Reflection, as we consider the state of our nation,” said Hamal Strayhorn, director of the Office of Coalition Building and Diversity Education at Mason. “Our nation has experienced the loss of 400,000 lives to COVID-19, social and economic disparity in full view, the continuation of black bodies being murdered by police without accountability and racial unrest. On Jan. 6 we all witnessed a failed insurrection in our nation’s capital, which was rooted in divisiveness and racism.”

“Our hope is that students and attendees will understand that in our nation and world there is still a lot of work to do around issues of social justice, equity and inclusion and that ‘the time is always right to do what is right,’” Strayhorn said, quoting Dr. King.

Mason President Gregory Washington will be the event’s keynote speaker and will address this year’s theme of “The Burning House,” which comes from another Dr. King quote:

“I’ve come upon something that disturbs me deeply. We have fought hard and long for integration, as I believe we should have, and I know we will win, but I have come to believe that we are integrating into a burning house…”

“How will our commitment to anti-racism work be like the ‘firefighters’ preventing the ‘house’ from burning completely down?” Strayhorn said. “[President Washington] will also look at how the work of anti-racism touches and affects our students, professional members, the local community, the commonwealth and eventually our nation.”

Following the keynote address, representatives from the student body will have the opportunity to ask questions relating to the theme, the work the university is doing around anti-racism, or how they can play a part in keeping Dr. King’s vision at the forefront of social change, Strayhorn said.

Students, faculty and staff who are doing influential work centered on Dr. King’s vision will also be honored with the Spirit of King Awards.

“The MLK Evening of Reflection shows that George Mason University is committed to diversity, excellence, and inclusion and to addressing the hard questions of where we are as a people and nation,” Strayhorn said.

Register for the MLK Evening of Reflection here. Watch via Zoom here on Jan. 28 at 6 p.m.