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On the Spot

How One Day in May in 1968 forced Augsburg to reevaluate its posture and practices regarding racism and education

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Hana Dinku headshotHana Dinku served as director of Augsburg University’s Pan-Afrikan Center from March 2019 to July 2020. Her most recent project at Augsburg, “One Day in May,” was featured on WCCO-TV this spring, prior to Augsburg’s virtual commencement. Between her work leading programs and supporting students, she outlined the importance of Augsburg’s history and present moment.

Q: Why was One Day in May such a pivotal moment for the Augsburg community in 1968?

A: One Day in May forced Augsburg to recognize all the ways it had failed to live up to its mission and values. In the wake of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, higher education institutions across the country saw a wave of protests and a demand for structural change. One Day in May was Augsburg’s response to the moment. The community speakers, Augsburg students, staff, and faculty who participated shed light on systemic white supremacy in the Augsburg community and the nation. This public acknowledgment created a level of transparency and accountability that helped move Augsburg in the right direction.

Q: How did the reintroduction of One Day in May arise and become the theme of this year’s commencement ceremony?

A: When I started my job at Augsburg, one of my mentors, community elder Mahmoud El-Kati, told me the real history of Black folks at Augsburg. Elder Mahmoud was one of the community speakers at One Day in May and spent years working closely with the Pan-Afrikan Center. Very few people on campus knew about One Day in May and the contributions of Black students, staff, and faculty. After learning that Augsburg’s sesquicentennial book, “Hold Fast to What is Good,” didn’t mention it, I worked with other Augsburg leaders to make One Day in May the theme for the university’s 2020 MLK Day celebration. As more people heard the story and understood the significance of One Day in May, it took on a life of its own. Directors of International Student Services, LGBTQIA+ Student Services, and Multicultural Student Services worked with faculty member Leon Wang and the administration to build and promote a sesquicentennial campaign about One Day in May.

Q: What is one component of One Day in May that is especially relevant for our current social and political environment?

 A: All aspects are relevant, but if I had to identify one particular component, it would be the demand to decolonize the curriculum at Augsburg. The Eurocentric core of the education system is the clearest example of how our institutions are embedded in white supremacist ideology. This is why we gathered this year to begin the creation of a Critical Race and Ethnicity Studies department.

Q: What do you hope is accomplished through the reintroduction of One Day in May?

A: My goal for this campaign was to help Black students understand and appreciate the battles fought by those who came before them. I want Black students and other marginalized students to know that we are a part of Augsburg history; we are not guests at this institution. When the whole Augsburg community understands this, we will see the kind of institutional changes that marginalized students, staff, and faculty have demanded for years.


WEB EXTRA: Visit inside.augsburg.edu/one-day-in-may to see more ways Augsburg is building on the foundation of One Day in May.

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