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Our Daily Work: Celebrate Black History Throughout Year

Two recent op-eds published in Diverse: Issues In Higher Education struck a chord with me — “Black History Beyond One Month” by Dr. Elwood Watson, a professor of history and African American studies at East Tennessee State University, and “One Month of Black History is Not Enough” by Dr. James B. Ewers Jr., a former associate dean for student affairs at Miami University Middletown.

Let me say that we at the University of Dayton wholeheartedly agree.

On our campus sits a monument to the daily work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and King’s address on our campus in 1964.

Allow me to stress that again – a monument to King’s daily work.

Remembering King, Black history and civil rights shouldn’t be just a middle of January, month of February or April 4 thing. We should remind ourselves that what really matters is the daily work of King, his contemporaries and today’s champions of equality. And we should recognize, commemorate and celebrate Black history daily.

This monument on our campus — “Our Daily Quest” — has inspired me since I arrived on campus such that I make it the starting point when I give campus tours. I can see the monument when I look out my office window, and every day it reminds me of the daily work we must all do to become a more diverse and inclusive community on campus and beyond.

That it should serve as a daily call to action was the vision of University of Dayton art history professor Roger Crum when he worked on the monument with M. Gary Marcinowski, Marianist brother and associate professor of art, and John Clarke, associate professor of art and design.

“My hope is that when students consider the memorial, they will come away with a deeper appreciation that King’s biography and the narrative of the civil rights movement were about more than key moments, such as the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, or the Selma to Montgomery march, or the garbage workers’ strike in Memphis,” Crum said when we dedicated the monument. “Instead, the memorial’s meaning is that the movement was more fundamentally about the daily work of communicating a developing message, much like King did when he spoke on campus in 1964.”

Crum and Herbert Woodward Martin, a nationally known poet and University of Dayton English professor, joined me at the monument to discuss the genesis of the monument, the inspiration for its features, the reason for its location and how it advances the University’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and the common good. You can view the conversation here.

We discuss how the monument operates in the midst of University life and traffic so the community can be in, with and walk through the monument. Crum and Martin also note in this conversation that King was never alone and made himself available to the entire community. It was not the Black community or the White community King wanted to inspire – he wanted to inspire the American community.

As we are inspired and connected to King’s work and his words during the week of Jan. 15 through Black History Month in February, and as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of his death on April 4, my hope is that communities find ways — as the University of Dayton has through our monument and our efforts to become more diverse and inclusive — to feel that connection every other day throughout the year.

Dr. Eric F. Spina is president of the University of Dayton.

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