5th Annual Walk the Walk Week: Campus-wide Observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day Leads to Reflection

Author: Shannon Rooney

Each year, the Notre Dame community celebrates Walk the Walk Week, a campus-wide observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day that spans a full week. Walk the Walk week features talks and events hosted by various departments across campus, bringing students, faculty, and staff together to examine diversity and inclusion at the University. This is the celebration’s fifth year running.

As in past years, Walk the Walk Week, which takes place Sunday, January 19 through Saturday, January 25, kicks off with a traditional candlelight prayer service in the rotunda of the Main Building. On Monday, the official Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in the U.S., classes and administrative work is put on hold for all community members to attend a special luncheon at the Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center. The featured speaker for the luncheon is Diane Nash, a former Freedom Rider and co-founder the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Nash played a pivotal role in the Selma Voting Rights Movement that ultimately led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The week continues with Community Building lunches and a series of dinner discussions titled “Let’s Talk About Race: Race and Faith Edition,” among other events. See the full schedule here.

Senior Kenzie Isaac, director of diversity and inclusion for Notre Dame Student Government, is part of the planning committee for “Let’s Talk About Race,” an annual feature of Walk the Walk Week. Isaac says the goal of this particular event is to create discussions that “challenge us to embrace—or, perhaps, come to terms with—our lived, racialized experiences, and critically think about how to be as intentional as possible in cultivating ourselves, our communities, and our societies/cultures into people and spaces that are actively working towards racial unity.” 

This is the event that Isaac is most excited about because it is designed to make a conversation about race accessible to everyone. 

“Something that I hear quite frequently from people is that they are afraid to initiate conversations about race because they’re not an ’expert’ on race, or because they don’t feel that they can share their insights in spaces where others might be more experienced in discussing race relations,” says Isaac. The benefit of this event is that no experience in race theory is needed to be part of the discussion. The focus is on lived experience. “Your perspective is crucial and in high demand, precisely because you’re the only one that can give it. The opportunity to exist in a space where everyone is a distinct and valued contributor to the conversation, simply through sharing the fullness of who they are, is why I am most excited about ’Let’s Talk About Race,” says Isaac. 

She is also organizing an event titled “A Discussion on Faith, Culture, and Mental Health,” in partnership with the McDonald Center for Student Well-Being and the University Counseling Center. Isaac says the event “invites Notre Dame to explore how different faith traditions perceive mental health and illness, and how the presence of multiple faith traditions on campus influences how and whether students seek out wellness resources.” 

There are events that cater to all interests during Walk the Walk Week and the focus is on inclusion and a shared community experience.

Walkthewalkweekprayerservice

Walk the Walk Week kicks off with a Candlelight Prayer Service

They include the Snite Salon Series at the Snite Museum of Art, featuring a conversation on Charles Moore’s photograph Fire Hose Aimed at Young Demonstrator, Birmingham, Alabama. Professors Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter Onuf, authors of Most Blessed of the Patriarchs: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination, will deliver a lecture titled Thomas Jefferson, Race, Slavery, and the Problem of American Nationhood. A screening of the movie Waves, followed by a panel discussion, will highlight the representation of African-American women in film. 

Even with a plethora of events to choose from, Isaac says the student body should keep in mind that the schedule is only a framework. 

“We’re the ones who make Walk the Walk Week what it is by showing up to events, absorbing what we hear, and playing our part in extending these conversations for weeks and years to come. If there’s something that we see or hear that positively resonates with us, we need to actively invest in preserving it. If there’s something crucial that’s missing in our conversations, we need to call that something by name and ensure that it’s not neglected in future dialogues,” says Isaac.

Every member of the Notre Dame family can play a part in creating an inclusive campus community.

Originally published by Shannon Rooney at admissions.nd.edu on January 17, 2020.