“Know that you are, by nature, a creator, a maker of something other than what is. In whatever wilderness you wander, you are all creatives.”

Keith Hamilton Cobbs, an actor, playwright, and Bates’ keynote speaker for Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2023, began the day in the Peter J. Gomes Chapel with an inspiring message about how arts and activism play complementing roles in our lives, no matter who we are, or what we do.

Watch some of the best moments of the day below:

Throughout the day, workshops, panels, discussions, and creative presentations followed this year’s theme, “Art and Activism,” as the Bates community shared how they practice creativity and community in their lives.

Is it OK to target iconic works of art in the name of social justice? That’s what students from Bates and @morehouse1867 debated at the annual Rev. Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays, Class of 1920, Debate as part of the college’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day programming. Seen above, Chijindum Dike (left) shares a post-debate celebration with John Curry. Both are students from Morehouse College, and traveled to Bates for the debate. The Bates community and friends crowded into the Olin Arts Center for a much-anticipated part of Bates’ Martin Luther King Jr. Day programming: the debate between four students; two from Morehouse, and two from Bates. The tradition honors Mays, who served as the president of Morehouse College for 27 years. King, then a student at Morehouse, referred to Mays as his “spiritual mentor.” Throughout the debate, the students responded to this year’s motion, “This house believes that the targeting of iconic works of art to advance social justice is justified,” and responded to each other and opinions from the audience. Manuel Machorro ’25 of Mexico City, a politics and philosophy double major, opened the debate on the government side with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. “Dr. King said ‘if you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t run, then walk, if you can’t walk, then crawl, but by all means, keep moving.’ The claim that we’re gonna make from the government, is that when you’re not listened [to] by anyone, and when the government monopolizes power to destroy you, any way that you see fit is to some capacity justified in pursuing social justice.” Machorro was joined by Dike, a sophomore and double major in psychology and Chinese. The opposition was presented by Curry, a senior and triple major in philosophy, religion, and Chinese, and Andrew Montieth ’24 of Monroe, Wash., a philosophy major. The debaters referenced recent demonstrations, arguing that social justice is furthered by reclaiming spaces and public attention, and the opposition argued that some social activist action diverts attention away from the problem, and onto the targeted object.
Bates debater Manuel Machorro ’25 (left) of Mexico City and visiting Morehouse College debater Chijindum Dike teamed up for the annual Benjamin Elijah Mays Debate on MLK Day at Bates. They debated Bates’ Andrew Montieth ’24 of Monroe, Wash., and John Curry of Morehouse. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)