Harvard Celebrates Interfaith Awareness Week with Film Screening

Memorial Church hosted a screening of “Soundtrack for a Revolution,” a film commemorating the life and message of Martin Luther King, Jr., during the first in a series of events planned to celebrate the University’s third annual Interfaith Awareness Week.

The Harvard community adopted Interfaith Awareness Week in 2011, echoing a United Nations initiative that dedicated the first week of February to the task of commemorating and affirming international peace.

Those involved in Harvard’s events hope that the week will foster a respectful environment and encourage students to explore the commonalities between all faiths and non-faiths.

“This is a very delicate subject, very personal for many of us,” said Harvard Zoroastrian Chaplain Daryush Mehta. “Even if you get just one student who comes to a realization or we’re able to affect a few people, it’s worth it.”

In addition to Monday’s screening, the week will also include a talk by former Vice President Al Gore '69 on the health of the planet and its inhabitants, an open meditation sponsored by the Harvard Buddhist Chaplaincy, and a panel entitled “Doubt and Religion.”

S. Allen Counter, director of the Harvard Foundation, said he thinks that because many students were not on campus to celebrate Martin Luther King Day, which fell during Harvard’s winter break, the film on King’s life was an appropriate way to kick off the week’s events.

“Dr. King was a very active Christian who used his Christian philosophy to advance the civil rights movement,” Counter said.

The film incorporated soulful music with footage and personal testimonies from Freedom Riders and civil rights activists. Music by contemporary artists was juxtaposed with black-and-white mug shots of various Freedom Riders. Grainy film footage of former Alabama Governor George C. Wallace condemning integration was interspersed with clips of a church choir belting “We Shall Not Be Moved.”

“Last year we had a speaker, we had a program. I thought, ‘Let’s try something a little different to get the younger generation more aware,’” said Counter. “John Legend can reach your generation much better than I could.”

Following the film, the Kuumba Singers sang “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ’Round,” a song that was prevalent throughout the film.

Lea E. Parker ’15, a member of the Kuumba Singers, said she felt a connection to the music in the film.

“The way that they used song was particularly meaningful to me,” said Parker. “It was a similar mode of expression that I can relate to.”

After the Kuumba Singers’ performance, Aubrey J. Walker ’15 offered the event’s closing remarks, emphasizing the continued need for young people to come together around social movements ranging from mass incarceration to gun control.

“We are the voice of a generation and together, we will be heard,” Walker said.

Staff writer Anneli Tostar can be reached at annelitostar@college.harvard.edu. Follow her on Twitter @AnneliTostar.

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