Bellevue College Honors MLK Jr.’s Legacy with Event on Rebuilding Communities Post-Pandemic

MLK Day // The Watchdog

Last week, Bellevue College celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, holding a student-led discussion panel on Jan. 18 and a speaker event on Jan. 19 in his honor. The keynote address, “Rebuilding our Communities Post-Pandemic”, was held at the Carlson Theatre on Jan. 19 from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. and was also broadcasted live for virtual participation. 

Bellevue College’s interim president, Gary Locke, started his opening speech by reminding us that we have a unique opportunity to evaluate what actions are necessary in order to “make our society equitable for all, and finally deliver on the promise of a free and just society” as Dr. King envisioned. Locke stressed the importance of applying Dr. King’s wisdom to our current situation to “refresh, renew, and rebuild the connective social fabric that binds us all” at Bellevue College post-pandemic.

After the insightful introduction to the event, Dr. Consuelo Grier, the Vice President of Diversity, welcomed the two keynote speakers.

Veronica Very is the founder of Wonder of Women International and the WOW Gallery located in downtown Seattle. The gallery she co-created is more than just an art exhibit;  it is an immersive healing art experience dedicated to the “healing of systematic and racial trauma in Black people by using an ancestral guided framework of storytelling,” Grier says. Very is also the visionary creator of “Dear Sista, I See You,” a healing art exhibition that emphasizes Black women, Black love and Black communities. 

The WOW Gallery exhibits the second keynote speaker’s artwork. Hiawatha D. is a Seattle-native artist who uses his art to “disrupt the narratives of trauma that typically depict Black lives”. In 2017, he began his Iconic Black Women collection, which has grown to around 75 pieces since its inception. His goal is to use his power, his passion and his voice to highlight the work, brilliance and beauty of Black women, who are often underrepresented in our society.

“I have the power, I get to say” was a phrase repeated throughout the address and is the central philosophy of the presentation. Hiawatha and Very explain that we need to remember that we all have the power to take action and the ability to use our voices for change. “If we don’t realize we have that power, and we don’t realize that we get to say, then we place that power in someone else’s hands,” Very remarks.

Hiawatha and Very talked about embracing the three energetic intentions: love, light and liberation, all of which help us remember the power we have. “You have to love, because you got to love yourself before you can love anyone else… and once you start to see and love, then you’ll see the light turn on, and once that light turns on, you can be free, you can liberate yourself,” Hiawatha says. 

The speakers explained how we could embrace the three energetic intentions through pieces in the Iconic Black Women collection, sharing the stories of historical Black women like Coretta Scott King, Ruby Bridges and Nikole Hannah Jones and how they embraced love, light and liberation in their stories.

Dr. King famously said, “Our goal is to create a beloved community, and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.” Remembering that we have the power to envision a world that we want to live in and taking actions that strive towards the betterment of all is the key to reconstructing our community post-pandemic.