• Division of Student Affairs
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Center on Race and Social Problems
Features & Articles

Social Justice Week Events Celebrate Service and Inclusion Throughout the Community

According to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’”

While classes are canceled Monday, Jan. 15, in honor of the national holiday remembering King’s legacy, the Pitt community will be joining thousands of Americans across the country in contemplating this question.

Events With Registration Deadlines

Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service
Deadline: Monday, Jan. 8.

  • Students: registration closes at 11:59 p.m., or as soon as 900 students have registered.
  • Faculty/Staff: registration closes at 5 p.m.
  • Alumni (family and friends welcome): registration closes at 5 p.m.

Equipoise luncheon for Dean Davis
Deadline: 5 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 12, online.

Social Justice Symposium
Deadline: Friday, Jan. 12, at the symposium’s registration website.

The Division of Student Affairs’ Office of Cross Cultural and Leadership Development (CCLD) kicks off 2018 with its 10th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Social Justice Week, which offers a wide range of events and activities to celebrate. Biggest of all: the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. (See sidebar for registration details.)

Another yearly headliner of Social Justice Week is CCLD's symposium on a topic surrounding cultural issues of the moment. This year, the professional development session will be for faculty and staff only; it is titled “Creating a Just Community Across the Ages.”

“We found that a lot of folks wanted some training around ageism and understanding each other, so we wanted to address that” as part of this week, said Sherdina Harper, coordinator of cross cultural and leadership development programming in Student Affairs.

The symposium will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 18, in the William Pitt Union Assembly Room and is open to all Pitt faculty and staff. It will be facilitated by BridgeWorks, a group that works with organizations to bridge generational gaps in the workplace.

As BridgeWorks notes, every person can identify with a generation; it’s one of the identities that brings people together. But in a workforce that includes five distinct generations — traditionalists, baby boomers, Generation X, millennials and Generation Y — those divisions can also create challenges for communication.

The symposium will involve a Jeopardy-style trivia game for faculty and staff called GenPOP! to get co-workers talking and reminiscing about generational pop culture.

“One of the things we want to continue to encourage and promote is the importance of inclusion,” while being inspiring, said Harper. GenPop! will be the “icing on the cake of this year’s Social Justice Symposium, so we can laugh and enjoy each other as we continue to learn,” she said.

Every generation brings something valuable to the table. “Just think where we would be if we could bring the ages together and gain from each other’s experiences, without competition, in a meaningful way.”

MLK at a long table in WPU

There are several other events on Monday's holiday and throughout the week to build community, including:

Monday, Jan. 15

MLK Day of Service

Support Pittsburgh-area communities and nonprofits by volunteering on- or off-campus from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. A light breakfast, lunch and a T-shirt will be provided. Registration closes Monday, Jan. 8, for students, faculty, staff and alumni.

Remembering a Brother

At exactly 7:06 p.m. on Dec. 4, 1906, the first chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha was founded. The group was the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity for African-Americans and people of color. It gave support and a voice to minority students who faced discrimination in universities across the country, and many of its members were at the forefront of the civil rights movement, including Dr. King.

At 7:06 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 15 (King’s birthday), a candlelight vigil will be held in his honor in the William Pitt Union driveway, followed by a discussion in 538 WPU hosted by Pitt’s Alpha Phi Alpha chapter, established in 1913.

Tuesday, Jan. 16

Luncheon Honoring Dean Larry Davis

Equipoise, an African-American affinity group for Pitt faculty, staff, students and administrators, will join the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and CCLD in honoring Larry Davis, dean of the School of Social Work and director of the Center on Race and Social Problems. Davis will receive Equipoise’s Creating a Just Community Award, which recognizes the exceptional achievements of citizens who strive to build equality in every sector.

Faculty and staff can find event details and RSVP information here

Wednesday, Jan. 17

Interfaith Service

Heinz Memorial Chapel will showcase an artistic memorial of King’s life at 7 p.m. with music and dance performances, singing, visual arts and spoken word poetry. The event is free and open to the public.  

Thursday, Jan. 18

Social Justice Symposium

The unique symposium will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the WPU Assembly Room and is open to all Pitt faculty and staff.