UND Today

University of North Dakota’s Official News Source

Another Other America: Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day at UND

Invited speaker David Wall Rice discussed service to self, and social justice awards were conferred to 10 people

David Wall Rice, a professor of psychology at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Ga., gives the keynote address at UND’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day event on Monday, Jan. 16. Photo by Mike Hess/UND Today

When it comes to addressing issues of racism and social justice, it is necessary for an individual to first examine their sense of self. It is that examination, and the understanding that comes from it, that allows people to affect positive changes on those issues.

After all, can racism be understood if one is not willing to understand “the broken parts of oneself?” The answer, according to David Wall Rice, is probably not.

Rice, a professor of psychology at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Ga., gave the keynote address at UND’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day event on Monday, Jan. 16. The event was held in the Ballroom of the Memorial Union and drew several hundred attendees from the campus and surrounding communities. The event also featured the conferring of the Martin Luther King Jr. Social Justice Awards, which are given to individuals who have shown a commitment to social justice in the UND community.

In his address, titled “Another Other America: The Heavy Work of Service in Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” Rice stressed the necessity of looking inward, as is perhaps most fitting for a psychology professor. Such a meditation, he said, informs us on how we deal with ourselves and with others.

“I propose that another other America that demands confrontation here and now is found in the examination of who you are, and how your psychological self is dismantling or is designing oppression,” Rice said.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the only federal holiday designated as a National Day of Service. Fitting in with the theme of a day of service was Rice’s notion of service to “self,” which he said can allow us to become people of actionable accountability.

“You’ve got to love yourself enough to demand respect and actions of equality from yourself and from others,” Rice told the audience.

UND President Andrew Armacost greets David Wall Rice, at the UND MLK Jr. Dave celebration on Monday, Jan. 16. Photo by Mike Hess/UND Today

Speaking before Rice was President Andrew Armacost, who thanked the event organizers, the faculty, staff and student members of the Office of Diversity & Inclusion, Student Diversity & Inclusion, and the Pride Center.

Armacost said people on Martin Luther King Jr. Day are frequently peppered by quotes from the “I Have a Dream” speech, King’s most famous speech. But Armacost challenged attendees to go deeper than the quotes.

“Let me encourage each of you in this room to read this speech in its entirety, not just the snippets that you see reported in the media,” Armacost said. “And please take the time to reflect upon the words that you read, to ask whether the promissory note has been fully delivered, and to reflect upon the speech’s meaning both in 1963 and also its meaning today.”

Armacost also challenged people to become more familiar with King’s other speeches, such as his 1967 anti-Vietnam War speech “A Time to break the Silence,” and “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top,” delivered in 1968, one day prior to his assassination.

Armacost then called on members of the UND community to continue King’s work to “ensure justice, fairness, and opportunities for all members of our campus and for society.”

Tamba-Kuii Bailey, special assistant to the President for Diversity & Inclusion, encouraged people to become more familiar with King’s works at the MLK Jr. Day event on Monday.

Like Armacost, Tamba-Kuii Bailey, special assistant to the President for Diversity & Inclusion, encouraged people to become more familiar with King’s works. Bailey spoke after Rice and thanked him for attending the UND MLK Day event.

Bailey reflected on a previous conversation he had with Rice, who said people shouldn’t experience King in fragments, but rather should become immersed in his work. Bailey, echoing Rice’s theme of service, also told attendees that change can be enacted by discovering and remaining committed to a form of service.

“That is how we change this university, the state, this region, this country and how we ultimately start to change the world,” he said.

Andrew Armacost, left, flanks the 2023 Martin Luther King Jr. Social Justice Award recipients, with David Wall Rice, keynote speaker, on the far right. Photo by Mike Hess/UND Today

Martin Luther King Jr. Social Justice Awards recipients

Ten people were recognized for their efforts in advancing the cause of social justice in the UND community. Award recipients for 2023 are:

David Wall Rice, psychology professor at Morehouse College, and the day’s keynote speaker; Kelly and Giuseppe Caruso (Kelly Caruso is a UND alumna); Robert Newman, UND biology professor; Madhavi Marasinghe, UND chief information officer; Brad Rundquist, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences; Cindy Juntunen, dean of the College of Education & Human Development; Nesreen Jaber and Kimberly Tom, UND graduate students and Helen Ramon-Vega.