LEWISBURG, Pa. -- Last spring, senior student-athletes Amanda Fazio, Katie Price, and Ryan Frazier coordinated a thought-provoking Bucknell Community Dinner that focused on privilege, racial discrimination, and gender and sexuality. These monthly dinners, sponsored by the President’s Office and hosted by a variety of constituents across campus, serve to open up dialogue on particularly sensitive subjects.
Bison student-athletes have taken on a leadership role in these areas, and they were at it again on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Softball's Meghan Kovac and basketball's Megan McGurk, along with sophomore Sha-Asia Taylor, were the organizers of the MLK Beloved Community Dinner in Larison Hall. Several other student-athletes and members of the Black Student Union (BSU) served as facilitators for table discussions.
Bucknell President John Bravman, director of athletics and recreation John Hardt, and members of the faculty participated in the event along with a large number of students, many of whom are varsity student-athletes. In total, more than 200 members of the Bucknell community participated in the discussion.
The racial climate in America, framed by the presidential election and other recent events, served as the backdrop for the dinner. A large focus of the conversation centered around activism.
The evening's first topic focused on Colin Kaepernick's protests during the national anthem at San Francisco 49ers games this season. After viewing a video on Kaepernick's controversial kneeling during the national anthem, there were breakout discussions on whether this type of protest from professional athletes is empowering or offensive.
Fittingly, Dr. Martin Luther King's activism was the next topic. Excerpts were read from his "I Have a Dream" speech, as well as his "Letters from a Birmingham Jail" and “America is Going to Hell.” The ensuing discussion focused on several areas, including what happens when individuals agree on the goals of a protest, but not with the methods of action; and what obstacles get in the way of protest movements both nationally and on Bucknell's campus.
And finally, the evening wrapped up with a discussion on different styles of activism, ranging from well wishes to writing politicians to boycotts to picket lines, and more. Several posters were hung around the room, and guests were asked to place different colored post-it notes on the poster pertaining to forms of activism in which he/she has participated. That led to a follow-up discussion on the "Spectrum of Activism" and where Bucknell fits in that realm.
“I believe Community Dinners do an incredible job of bringing together different types of people from Bucknell to have discussions that need to be brought up more often,” said Kovac, who served as a facilitator at the March Community Dinner and was looking for an opportunity to step up and do even more this semester. “Doing this dinner on MLK Day was a great opportunity to discuss issues of difference, and how students and other members of the Bucknell community can have an impact even with the smallest action. I think the best part of the discussion was when attendees had the opportunity to place themselves on the Spectrum of Activism and question themselves about if they could do more or if they are comfortable with where they are now. I believe that these discussions and the self-reflection we hopefully touched on is what will lead to improvements in many parts of our lives.”
“I am very proud that so many Bison student-athletes are taking on leadership roles on significant issues on our campus,” said Maisha Kelly, senior associate director of athletics and an active member of the President’s Diversity Council. “Megan and Megan did a great job in their roles as co-organizers of the MLK Beloved Community Dinner, and I thought there was a profound sharing of thoughts and ideas throughout the evening.”