Honoring MLK’s life and legacy at Cabrini University

17 & UNDER ROUND TWO - JUNE 12, 2022 - joelperlish (1)

By Izabella Cipresso
January 19, 2023

Bushra Islam, Lailah Dunbar, Raymond Ward, Helen Drinan, and the students of Next Steps. Photo by Kendall Trumbore.
Bushra Islam, Lailah Dunbar, Raymond Ward, Helen Drinan, and the students of Next Steps. Photo by Kendall Trumbore.

On Nov. 2, 1983, President Ronald Regan signed a law designating Martin Luther King Jr. Day on the third Monday of January. On Monday, Jan. 16, Cabrini students commemorated the holiday by volunteering at off-campus locations, and participating in on-campus workshops. The day celebrates Dr. King’s dedication to social justice and service work and encourages people to live out his legacy. 

The Wolfington Center and the Office of DEI and Belonging organized an MLK Day of Service, Learning, and Advocacy. Their theme was inspired by King’s quote, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” 

Lailah Dunbar, director of the Office of DEI and Belonging, said, “How do you get to really understand other people – how other people are living, what other people are going through? You can read it in a book, yes, but service gives you the opportunity to really understand others.”

Julie Lopez raises garden beds at Martha’s Community Farm. Photo by Kendall Trumbore.

The day began with a trip to Joy of Sox, an organization that collects and distributes new socks to people experiencing homelessness. Cabrini student volunteers spent time sorting, counting, and labeling a warehouse of socks.

In addition, students went to Martha’s Community Farm to assist with crop rotations and raising garden beds. All of the crops grown on the farm go to Martha’s Choice Marketplace, a food bank in Norristown, PA. 

Three workshops took place on-campus, lead by Cabrini leaders and educators, to initiate conversations about adversity. In the first session, Dr. Colleen Lelli, professor of education, spoke about advocating for individuals affected by interpersonal violence (domestic violence) and Fr. Fidelis Olokunboro, a priest and assistant professor, examined Dr. King and Mother Cabrini’s Christian-philosohical personalism.

The second workshop featured insight into becoming the beloved community with Dunbar and an introduction to advocacy and organizing from Dr. Raymond Ward, director of the Wolfington Center. In the final session, Dr. Zakia Gates, middle-level program coordinator of the education department and assistant professor, posed the question “What will be your resolution: activism or self-care?” and Dr. Ronald Whitaker explained Dr. King’s analysis and antidote for the three evils of society. 

Samantha Kilson, junior math and secondary education major, said, “The first workshop I did was with Dr. Lelli … She basically read out scenarios – well it was one big scenario where you were a woman in a domestic violence situation and it was like, ‘what would you do?’ … The whole scenario that was playing out was showing why it is really hard to just leave.”

Activism, advocacy, education, and service

Martin Luther King Jr. Day can allow people the opportunity to make changes in their life and community. The hope of Cabrini’s day of service and advocacy is a continuation of aid throughout the year. 

Dunbar said, “We added the term advocacy to the title of MLK day of service because advocacy is sustainable. You can go paint a fence or a wall one day and then, wait 365 days and do it again. But when you are an advocate, you are committed to things getting better.”

Additionally, Dunbar expressed how she can give back to her community, and how she instills God’s will in her daily life.

Dunbar said, “You know what, I have a lot of gifts and I know that God intends for me to give these gifts to the world. Otherwise, why would I have them? For me, that’s what I would want people to get out of MLK day, you have to give your gifts to the world.” 

King’s and Mother Cabrini’s mission

Lailah Dunbar speaks to MLK Day participants about “The Beloved Community.” Photo by Kendall Trumbore.

King and St. Francis Xavier Cabrini shared similar visions of a world filled with peace, unity, and goodwill. Both said their inspiration was Jesus Christ and dedicated their lives to serving others. 

King’s global hope was “The Beloved Community,” a society where everyone is cared for and an absence of hunger, hate, or poverty. The idea was created by Josiah Royce, a philosopher-theologian, but was not popularized until King’s advocacy. 

Kilson said, “It might be hard to do on a big scale, but there are little things that I can do to support my community and advocate for my community. It doesn’t have to be a really overwhelming thing.”

King’s teachings suggest that a united society is achievable through love in action. One of Cabrini’s quotes emphasizes this idea stating, “The salvation of mankind does not depend on material success; nor on sciences that cloud the intellect. Neither does it depend on arms and human industries, but on Jesus alone.”

King and Mother Cabrini’s guidance revolves around resolving injustices, educating others, and restoring communities. The MLK Day of Service and Advocacy is one of many ways that Cabrini students continue the legacy of the two historical figures. 

17 & UNDER ROUND TWO - JUNE 12, 2022 - joelperlish (1)

Izabella Cipresso

Meet Bella Cipresso, the face behind the article. Bella is a 20 year old studying digital communication and social media at Cabrini University. The program has allowed for classroom learning to become experimental learning. Bella is currently an intern at Teacher Time To Go, leading their social media and marketing, and previously led two nonprofits to fund charitable organizations around the world. The goal of Bella's work is to combine her love for philanthropy with her communication skills and build a better world.

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