A close-up of a bench shows a design of a Black fist in the form of a sunflower

Xavier holds inaugural Martin Luther King Jr. Spirit Celebration

Jan 17, 2023

"Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'"

Those words from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King resonate deeply at Xavier University, whose members have long strived to be “for others” in their thoughts and actions.

King’s quote served as the theme of Xavier’s inaugural Martin Luther King Jr. Spirit Celebration on Tuesday at Bellarmine Chapel, located at the heart of the University’s campus.

The celebration, organized by Xavier’s Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, featured reflections on King's teachings, poetry, singing led by students as well as community members, and the unveiling of the Black Lives Lost Memorial Bench.

"We wanted to have an event that showcased Dr. King but also gave us an opportunity to reflect on who he was from a faith-based perspective,” said Ivy Banks, Xavier’s vice president for institutional diversity and inclusion. "This approach lends itself toward understanding who we are as a Jesuit Catholic institution while also understanding that Dr. King is a part of social justice, and his fight for ending oppression in our country really stemmed from his faith.”

During the event, attendees heard from guest speaker the Rev. Walter Fluker, currently Dean's Professor of Spirituality, Ethics, and Leadership at Emory University. Fluker previously served as the Martin Luther King Jr. Professor of Ethical Leadership at Boston University and also taught leadership studies at Morehouse College, of which both he and King himself are alumni.

Tuesday’s event also featured the blessing of the Black Lives Lost Memorial Bench, designed by local artist and Class of 2009 Xavier graduate Adoria Maxberry.

Made possible by a grant through OIDI and through the Interfaith Grant Program, Maxberry created the bench in response to feedback from Xavier students who called for a space where they could silently reflect on the community’s current standing and discern where they want to go from here.

Imperceivable from a distance, a close look at the bench reveals the names — interwoven into Maxberry’s vibrant design — of Black lives lost to violence throughout the years, including King’s. 

The bench will remain on display in Bellarmine Chapel throughout January, and afterward will be put on display inside various venues throughout Xavier’s campus. Eventually, the University will determine a permanent location for the bench.

"Launching the tour in Bellarmine, having that space for silent reflection and then seeing it in different spaces, will allow us to meet our community where they are at to give them those moments of care and moments of time to reflect on this work that we are all called to do," Banks said.

The inaugural MLK Spirit Celebration begins what Banks called the "Year of the King” at Xavier, as the University considers where it wants to go in the coming years.

Seeing Tuesday as a kickoff of sorts, Banks called upon her Musketeer community to reflect, not only during MLK Week but throughout the year, on the all-important question King posed to us: "What are you doing for others?”

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