Misericordia University to host series of events honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Black History Month

Misericordia University will host a series of special events throughout January and February to celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and recognize February as Black History Month.

The series begins with the celebration of Dr. King’s birthday on Monday, Jan. 20, with an Ecumenical Prayer Service at noon that will call for peace and understanding in the world. The service in the Mercy Hall Chapel will feature traditional prayer offerings and blessings by leaders from numerous faiths and religious traditions. Coordinators are Sister Jean Messaros, RSM, vice president for Mission Integration, who will represent the Mercy Catholic tradition, and Rev. Jim Calderone, O.F.M., Ed.D., professor emeritus of social work, who will represent the Independent Catholic tradition.

On Thursday, Jan. 30, the Ethics Institute of Northeastern Pennsylvania at Misericordia University will sponsor the panel discussion, “Ethical Issues in the Media,” at 6 p.m. in the Huntzinger and Alden Trust Rooms 218-219 of Sandy and Marlene Insalaco Hall. The program will address ethical issues which emerge from the content and manner in which information is communicated through the various media. There will be a particular focus on the November 2020 elections and campaign commercials. James Calderone, Ed.D., director of the Ethics Institute, will serve as moderator. Each panelist will offer a brief perspective, with time for questions and discussion.

The “White Rabbit Red Rabbit” experimental solo play will be presented on Feb. 6-7 with three show times. Written by Nassim Soleimanpour, a 29-year old Iranian man who was not allowed to leave his own country because he was a conscientious objector, the play details his experience and involves no director, set, or rehearsal because the actor portraying Soleimanpour gets the script a few minutes before the show starts. A different actor will portray him both nights so the actor experiences the story unfolding along with the audience.

Alicia Nordstrom, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Misericordia University, will perform as Soleimanpour on Thursday, Feb. 6 at 7:30 p.m.; Scott Woolnough will act the part on Friday, Feb. 7 at noon, and Jahmeel Powers will take the stage on Feb. 7 at 7:30 p.m. All performances will be in Huntzinger and Alden Trust Rooms 218-219 of Insalaco Hall. The performances are free. Reservations for the play are available online at or at the door. For additional information, please contact Dr. Nordstrom at or 570-674-8008.

On Tuesday, Feb. 11, the university will present the film, “I Am Not Your Negro,” at 6 p.m. in Lemmond Theater in Walsh Hall. A discussion will follow under the direction of Ryan Watson, Ph.D., assistant professor of film and visual media in the Department of Fine Arts. In 1979, author and social critic James Baldwin wrote a letter describing his next project, “Remember This House.” The book was to be a personal account of the lives and assassinations of three of his close friends: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time of Baldwin’s death in 1987, he left behind only 30 completed pages of the manuscript. Filmmaker Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished in the 2016 Academy Award-nominated film.

On Monday, Feb. 17, Misericordia will offer the panel discussion, “Mass Incarceration: Reflections from the Classroom at Dallas State Correctional Institution,” from 12-1:15 p.m. in Mercy Hall Room 347. The program will feature Misericordia faculty member Glenn Willis, Ph.D., assistant professor of religious studies, and students regarding their experiences in prison education.

The Black History Month commemoration concludes with “Black Space: Picturing Blackness in the 19th and 20th Centuries” on Monday, Feb. 24 from 4:30-6 p.m. in the Catherine Evans McGowan Room of the Mary Kintz Bevevino Library. The panel discussion will address representations of blackness in U.S. art and culture, from the 1820s through the late 20th century. Presenters include Jennifer Black, Ph.D., assistant professor of history and government; Kara Carmack, Ph.D., assistant professor of fine arts; Richard Hancuff, Ph.D., manager of online learning systems and instructor of English, and Lalaine Little, Ph.D., director, Pauly Friedman Art Gallery.

The discussion will explore the racist stereotypes presented in early images of free African Americans, and will trace black efforts to confront, engage, and undermine the stereotypes as time passed. The panel will discuss black artists and entrepreneurs – such as contemporary photographer and multimedia artist Lorna Simpson, conceptual artist Adrian Piper, visual artist and gallery owner Suzanne Jackson, and gallery director Linda Goode Bryant – who by the 1970s realized the need to create cultural self-representations and black-owned art spaces to counteract the highly segregated art shown in galleries, theaters and museums. Goode Bryant founded Just Above Midtown in 1974, a nonprofit space in New York City recognized as the first gallery space to exhibit the work of African-American artists and other artists of color in a major gallery district.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Week and Black History Month programs are free and open to the public. Throughout the series, participants are encouraged to tweet their own pledges or Dr. King-inspired thoughts with the hashtag #MUDream and to tag @MisericordiaU.

In addition to the public programs, Campus Ministry at Misericordia University will host a program for Misericordia students that will simulate the process of seeking asylum. The university will also offer a dinner for students and faculty to discuss what Dr. King means to them, and will celebrate Black History Month with a poetry reading featuring the work of black poets and a paint-by-numbers activity for students paying homage to influential black figures.

For more information about the series at Misericordia University, please contact the Mission Integration Office at 570- 674-1877 or visit blackhistory.