Buildings in South Side Bethlehem, PA

MLK Celebration Committee to Kick Off Year of Programming with Community Engagement Panel

The late afternoon event in Williams Global Commons is first in a series of MLK Justice Panels.

Story by

Linda Harbrecht

Photography by

Christa Neu

Lehigh’s MLK Committee will kick off a year of programming with a panel that will examine the relationship between the university and South Bethlehem on Wed., Sept. 25. The event, which will begin at 4:30 p.m., will be held in Global Commons in Williams Hall and is open to all members of the campus community.

The panel discussion will be led by Associate Professor of Psychology Chris Burke, who co-chairs this year’s MLK Committee with Dahlia Hylton, director of Lehigh’s Office of Multicultural Affairs. Panelists include Carolina Hernandez, assistant dean and director of the Community Service office; Adrienne McNeil, assistant vice president for Community and Public Affairs; Michael Kramp, associate professor of English and director of Lehigh’s film and documentary studies program; and Mary Folz, associate professor of English and director of Lehigh’s South Side Initiative.

“Although Lehigh is part of the fabric of South Bethlehem, the relationship between the Lehigh community and the surrounding neighborhoods is sometimes strained,” said Burke. “If we can we understand the roots of this tension, perhaps we can come to a more inclusive sense of community that facilitates collaboration. Each of our panelists has worked with the South Bethlehem community and brings a different perspective on this relationship and where we can go from here.” 

The community engagement panel is the first in a series of MLK Justice Panels that will examine different aspects of the teachings and work of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., according to the co-chairs. Future panels will look at the role campus activism has played on the Lehigh culture and reproductive justice. All of this year’s events will build on this year’s theme of “From Reflection to Action: Where Do We Go From Here?”  It is intended to prompt deeper discussions on how each member of the campus community can be an agent of change, organizers say.

After last year’s roster of compelling speakers and events, Hylton said the MLK Committee “felt energized to further the conversation by empowering our campus community to not only learn and ‘reflect’ from the amazing series of keynote speakers but also be inspired to put forth positive and systemic action within their sphere of influence.”

The theme, she said, drew from King's last manuscript, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community. “Our theme arouses a sense of movement towards building and sustaining an inclusive and equitable environment for all - regardless of their salient identities,” she said. “It is our desire that when attendees depart from the keynote addresses, the MLK Justice Panels and/or our learning circles, they feel emboldened to continue the conversation around justice and willing to continue on this journey of knowledge and action. The committee is simply providing them with the canvas in order to move that action forward."

In addition to Hylton and Burke, members of this year’s MLK Committee are:

  • Scott Burden, associate director of the Pride Center
  • Linda Harbrecht, director of university communications
  • Hillary Kwiatek, communications specialist, Human Resources
  • Princess Neely, graduate student and teaching assistant in psychology
  • Lloyd Steffen, professor of religion studies and university chaplain
  • Jennifer Swann, professor of biological sciences and director of student success in the College of Arts and Sciences
Story by

Linda Harbrecht

Photography by

Christa Neu

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