Danielle Ponder (SUNY Geneseo photo/Keith Walters '11)
The College hosted the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Leadership and Service this past Monday, Jan. 2 in the MacVittie College Union Ballroom. The annual intergenerational event drew 110 people including SUNY Geneseo students, faculty, and staff; seniors connected with the Foster Grandparent program administered by the Livingston County Office for the Aging, and high school students from Geneseo Central’s Leadership and Service class.
Danielle Ponder, Esq., delivered the keynote, “For the Love of Justice.” Ponder, a Rochester, N.Y. native, is an activist, musician, and attorney. She performs internationally with her band, Danielle Ponder & The Tomorrow People. She is a former Monroe County public defender, where she provided defense for the impoverished. She currently serves as an adjunct professor at SUNY Brockport and Rochester Institute of Technology and sits on several community initiatives and sits on the board of Teen Empowerment.
Ponder began by delivering, an a capella version of an original song. Beginning the event with a heartfelt and beautifully delivered piece set the tone for the day by emphasizing the need to open ourselves to hearing and coming to terms with the hard truths about race, poverty, and inequality in America, and how important it is to approach solutions to these issues from a place of love. Ponder shared her experiences growing up in Rochester, lessons from her eight-year career as a public defender, as well as national criminal justice data to support her call for open and honest dialogue and self-reflection around what freedom looks like for different Americans.
Ponder delivered another original song to close out her presentation that emphasized championing love over hate and good over evil. By doing so, we can move the Legacy of Dr. King forward.
This year’s volunteers worked on service projects that will benefit local and national organizations and charities. The projects include making fleece blankets to be donated to the local Veterans Association, assembling and decorating Winter Care Bags for residents of Morgan Estates Nursing Home, and writing cards for Active Duty and Veterans as part of Operation Gratitude.
Students could choose from five GOLD workshops, and during lunch, alum Gurnaina Chawla ’16, a SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence recipient who expects to graduate from Cornell Law School in 2020, delivered the talk, “Service and Social Movements for Change.” The Gospel Choir also performed during the event.