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A Single Garment of Destiny: Exploring Sustainability and Social Justice in the Legacy of MLK

Across the country in January, we take time to honor Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This year, the Sustainability Office partnered with the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity (IDE), Dartmouth Housing Communities, and the Center for Whole Communities of Burlington, VT to honor this tradition by organizing a workshop, A Single Garment of Destiny: Exploring Sustainability and Social Justice in the Legacy of MLK. Students from a range of groups working on justice and/or sustainability gathered to begin a dialogue with the intention of informing value-based action around the intersection of sustainability and social justice.

Each year, the College’s tradition of celebrating Rev. King provides an opportunity for us to examine the progress made toward justice since our gathering a year before. In the Sustainability Office, we take seriously the charge to recommit ourselves to honoring and living in King’s legacy and his fight for racial and economic justice. At its core, sustainability is about all people, now and in the future and building a world that is better for everyone. We cannot achieve our vision of sustainability if we don’t simultaneously address inequity. Our workshop aimed to explore questions of positionality: What does it mean to navigate Dartmouth's campus and effect positive change? What does it mean to graduate from Dartmouth and, as a result, be a leader? How does one leverage this position to effect change towards a more just and equitable world?

With the help of The Center for Whole Communities, we crafted a workshop program for a group of about 30 students, including representatives from: Sustainability, Tucker Center, Environmental Studies, Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies, Latin American, Latino & Caribbean Studies, Native American Studies, English, Government and Geography. The workshop built on past efforts to explore our roles within and across movements for justice and sustainability on campus, continued that conversation and pushed students to ask what effective allyship in justice work looks like.

Whole Communities challenged us to recognize, internalize, and reflect on how our identities may position us differently in hierarchies of power and privilege. The facilitators introduced us to language of collectivity, complexity, and reverence. We practiced envisioning a collective future based in mutual interdependency. We hope that participants left feeling more self-aware in respect to various aspects of identity, and inspired to listen, lead, and embody change. We certainly did. We consider this workshop the beginning and continue to seek ideas and feedback on how our office can continue to be a better ally, advocate, and agent for justice.

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