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Legacy of Freedom: with Dr. Jeremy Holloway, Strengthen ND

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Dr. Jeremy Holloway, University of North Dakota
University of North Dakota
Dr. Jeremy Holloway, University of North Dakota

Join us for a special episode commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. Day, featuring Dr. Jeremy Holloway, Assistant Professor at the University of North Dakota. Delve into a profound discussion on Dr. King's enduring legacy and its ongoing significance in today's world. Dr. Holloway will explore themes of freedom, social justice, and the transformative power of diversity, highlighting how Dr. King's vision continues to address historical and contemporary challenges. Don't miss 'Legacy of Freedom', a compelling talk by Dr. Holloway, at 7 p.m. tomorrow at the University of Jamestown, honoring the spirit and ideals of Dr. King.

In August, a landmark partnership was formed between Strengthen ND and the Human Flourishing Lab, aiming to explore the impact of hope throughout North Dakota. We'll be in conversation with Megan Langley, Executive Director of Strengthen ND, to shed light on this initiative and its potential implications.

Highlights of interview with Dr. Holloway:

Dr. Holloway's Reflection on Dr. King's Legacy: Dr. Holloway discussed the enduring legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., emphasizing the struggle for freedom and justice, not just in terms of racial equality but also civil justice.

Students' Perception of Martin Luther King Day: He talked about the varying perceptions of students regarding Martin Luther King Day, highlighting the importance of creating environments that encourage reflection on the significance of this day.

Evolution of Social Justice Since Dr. King's Assassination: Dr. Holloway shared his thoughts on the progress made in social justice since 1968, stressing the importance of empathy and connection in a world increasingly divided by perceived differences.

Impact of Dr. King in Today's Political Climate: He underscored the relevance of Dr. King's principles in the current political scenario, advocating for clarity and strength in one's inner voice and leadership that values human dignity and freedom.

Observance of Martin Luther King Day Over Time: Dr. Holloway reflected on how the observance of Martin Luther King Day has evolved, noting a shift from passive remembrance to more active engagement and the need for more inclusive celebrations of social justice.

DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) and Its Misinterpretation: He expressed concerns over the misuse of DEI initiatives, advocating for a true spirit of inclusion where all groups are equally valued and represented, and the need for effective training in this area.

Transcript of interview with Dr. Holloway:

Main Street

Welcome to Main Street on Prairie Public, I'm Craig Blumenshine. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday in our country, celebrated annually on the third Monday of January to honor the life and achievements of Martin Luther King Jr., one of America's great leaders in the civil rights movement. Tomorrow at the University of Jamestown, Dr. Jeremy Holloway will speak on campus at 7 p.m., and in just a minute, we'll visit with Dr. Holloway prior to his speech in Jamestown as part of events honoring the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In a sense, we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to whichever American was to fall out.

This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Main Street

And we are pleased to be joined by Dr. Jeremy Holloway. He's an assistant professor and director of geriatrics education at the University of North Dakota. Dr. Holloway, welcome to Main Street.

Dr. Jeremy Holloway, University of North Dakota

So happy to be here, thank you for having me.

Main Street

You are going give a talk titled, “Legacy of Freedom.” What's in that title?

Dr. Jeremy Holloway, University of North Dakota

There's a lot there. One is really honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and really what that is is a, some people call it a struggle for freedom, and it would be true. There's a struggle for anything valuable.

And so Dr. Martin Luther King really embodied that struggle for freedom. It could be racial justice, but there's civil justice, of course, as well.

Main Street

What do students think about today, do you think, when they think about Martin Luther King Day? Is it on top of mind or is it a holiday?

Dr. Jeremy Holloway, University of North Dakota

Some students see it as a day off, a day to catch up with school and everything. And then there's students that really take advantage of events where they can be in an environment that reflects on what this day is about. And that's what you need.

I need to get into an environment where I'm reminded, because even as I go throughout my day, it's easy to forget about things that have been before me that I take advantage of in a good way now.

Main Street

Help us reflect on the journey of what's happened since Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968 to where we are today.

Dr. Jeremy Holloway, University of North Dakota

Yes, I actually visited the, and I encourage anyone to visit the area and the place where Dr. King was assassinated. That was very inspirational for me, and it means a lot. There's a lot that has happened since then, and I think we've hit some milestones, but since the pandemic, there's some things that have surfaced that really call us all out to challenge how, what do we see when we see people that we may think are different from us?

And how are we taking intentional approaches to not widen that gap and provide more connection on a human level?

Main Street

I sat on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where he gave his speech. It's well-marked, anyone can see it, and I couldn't move for a little while. You're going to visit with students tomorrow night in Jamestown who maybe haven't reflected much on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. What should they think about him?

Dr. Jeremy Holloway, University of North Dakota

Wow, I want them to think about, because I know, and I usually leverage the way human beings are. Human beings think about themselves often, and it's not oftentimes selfish. They're thinking about themself maybe to make sure they're the best person they can be, and I know that the students are doing that regardless of what day it is, and so what I want to do is help them value how they think about themselves and how they make a difference today in their environments, and how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did that. I have a real experience of my own which I'm going to share that's going to hopefully help them understand how I went through that process myself.

Main Street

Give me a sense of when Dr. King became important to you.

Dr. Jeremy Holloway, University of North Dakota

Yeah, without sharing everything about what I'm going to share tomorrow, one of the things is I realized that life isn't just about me that I'm actually standing on legacies that others went through for me. So many things, you know, we're sitting on a chair. Someone had to go through a process so that we could have these nice chairs we're sitting on.

We're using technologies. Someone just created a beautiful legacy for their family so that we could use those products, and Dr. Martin Luther King, really his whole life was dedicated and even he gave his life for this purpose of sending a message of how important social justice is. It's really a gateway to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for us all.

Main Street

How important is he in today's political climate?

Dr. Jeremy Holloway, University of North Dakota

So important. Why? So we all have this, what I call, a still small voice inside.

It could be our, you could call it a conscience. I call it also the voice of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And we have a lot of external environments that can try to stifen that voice.

Every human being has that voice inside of them. Every human being has a level to which they're listening to that voice inside of them. And I want that voice to be crystal clear for every human being and loud.

And we want to have leaders in our overall office, in all of our offices, who understand that. And to help people have that sense of value more and more because the environments that we're in could either stifle that voice or it could help really germinate and bring that voice to light and what it actually needs to be in people's lives.

Main Street

Do you think Dr. King's legacy is any less important in North Dakota or more important in North Dakota than it is in other places in the country?

Dr. Jeremy Holloway, University of North Dakota

And I wish I could speak on behalf of a lot of people that come here to North Dakota. I have my own lived experience. And I've said that I came to North Dakota to stay warm because the people here, their hearts are so warm.

Maybe it's because we've all gone through this crazy winter and when it hits the summer, because we know there's no spring here, but when it hits the summer, we've gone through this together. But I do feel like there are all kinds of people in North Dakota, right? And yes, here in North Dakota, we must celebrate even more these values that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. brought to light related to social justice, really for all, social justice for all, and an appreciation of different cultures.

Main Street

Through your lens, how has the observance of Martin Luther King Day evolved since when you first remember it to today?

Dr. Jeremy Holloway, University of North Dakota

Yeah, I know I look like I'm 15 years old, but I'm actually a little older. And so I remember when, yeah, it was a day and you would see something on television and I would always see the speech. I would always see Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's speech. It would show up on television before there was the internet and everything. And I remember us gathering around and listening and seeing, and it just, it hit me every single time. And I still put on YouTube and watch Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's speech. I encourage people to do that. I think today, I believe there are, at least where I'm from, which is Toledo, Ohio, I remember the University of Toledo would have these big events where people would come and gather. And I'll be honest, I don't see that as much.

We had our first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Conference just a year ago. And that was the first DEI conference in North Dakota. And actually, I think there should be more kind of celebrated about that because that was the first one last year.

Last year is just the beginning of something new, I think, for North Dakota. So yeah, I think there is room for more widely celebrated opportunities in North Dakota, for sure.

Main Street

There are some politicians today in some states and North Dakota, I believe is one of them, who believe there should be less emphasis on things like departments of diversity, equity and inclusion. And what would your message be to those folks?

Dr. Jeremy Holloway, University of North Dakota

My message is they're absolutely right in this aspect, that diversity, equity and inclusion, unfortunately, has been hijacked in a lot of ways where there's individuals, leaders, et cetera, just using the platform to promote a certain group more than another group, which is the antithesis of what diversity, equity and inclusion is about. It's about all groups having a seat at a table, regardless of background. So that's the kind of diversity, equity and inclusion that should be strongly encouraged in every office, in every business, et cetera.

And there needs to be a curriculum and a training in how to assure that pure sense of DEI, diversity, equity and inclusion, and belonging, DEIB, can be nurtured in the way that it's meant to be nurtured in our businesses and organizations.

Main Street

You're the Director of Geriatrics Education at the University of North Dakota. Yet, you will also interact, obviously, with college students. Is there an intergenerational difference in how Dr. King's perceived that you have noticed?

Dr. Jeremy Holloway, University of North Dakota

That's a great question. You know, it's a question, actually, that I haven't directly asked students. I'll be honest, I haven't directly asked them, hey, what do you think about Dr. Martin Luther King?

I will say that it's almost a given for a lot of younger students, and I can't speak for all of them, but on campus, it's almost a given that they've had some experience where they know this is a value. Like, this is something that we need to appreciate. We need to appreciate the differences of others, especially when it comes to race, and especially when it comes to, I think, black versus white, because we've had so many forerunners talking about that and challenging beliefs and all these, you know, challenging racism.

But there's other isms that actually need to be challenged, like ageism. You know, that one actually today needs to be strongly challenged. You know, when you look on TikTok and other areas, people talk about old age as though that category is a category that if you're young, you should completely ignore these people because they don't know anything, and they don't know what they're talking about.

And TikTok and other social media kind of even puts a horn on that, you know, just, it's not good. And so I think that that's something that should be challenged.

Main Street

We're enjoying our conversation with Dr. Jeremy Holloway. He's going to speak at the University of Jamestown tomorrow night at seven o'clock on the university campus. His topic, appropriate for Martin Luther King Day, legacy of freedom.

Dr. Holloway, how do students learn about social justice movements today? There are some big headline events that have happened recently that the whole country has heard about. Then it's spun one way by people that provide people information, whether it from TikTok or from the national news.

How are people learning about what social justice means?

Dr. Jeremy Holloway, University of North Dakota

There's an issue happening today, and the issue is the same as the age old issue of I'm going to say it in a phrase. You know, I'm a father. There was no manual for becoming a father when I became one.

There was no manual for becoming, for being married. I wish there was. There is no manual for navigating through social media.

There is no manual. There are some courses and maybe some education about dealing with loneliness. And there is no manual about navigating through narcissism either.

I'm going to say this because it's very important that there's a relationship between loneliness, well, with college students and folks in their middle age with loneliness, narcissism, and social media. And so these three things play against each other a lot these days since the pandemic. So in just recent years, the US Surgeon General announced loneliness as an epidemic.

Unfortunately, people are getting their information only through social media. I love social media, but there has to be some kind of way to train folks to understand that that's not the only source that one should get because when folks are lonely, so I focus my research on social isolation and loneliness of older adults, but I also have an intergenerational program. So I also study about intergenerational relationships.

And what I see with folks that are younger than 65 is when they're lonely, they want to have some kind of resource or a source to validate what they're going through in their life and they go to social media. Unfortunately, social media has algorithms. So algorithms only validate your opinions and point of views.

So when you only see something that validates your opinion and point of view, it can only exasperate feelings of and thoughts of that are just narcissistic. It's just like, well, my opinion and point of view is the only one that matters. And so when you talk with someone that's different from you, has a different point of view, you're less inclined to listen to or tolerate or accept someone else's point of view because you already have this audience, which is yourself and social media that says otherwise.

And that gap is getting wider and wider. There has to be trainings and there's not a lot of trainings. I intend to make some about how to navigate through all that especially when you're facing us situations that might cause you to feel lonely and isolated.

Main Street

Forgive me if this is too personal, but help me understand how racism has impacted you in your life as a black person.

Dr. Jeremy Holloway, University of North Dakota

Yeah, I had to understand what racism was because for me, as a younger person, you're going through life and you can take things as just normal. Like this is just normal. And one of the things that I took for normal that I don't anymore is when my voice is stifled.

And when I have an opinion or point of view, and sometimes I, like other human beings, I put together different things and I say, you know what, that doesn't make sense. And this is why. And I used to think that my thoughts or opinions, point of views were not validated because I was this black kid from Ohio.

So maybe my voice doesn't really matter. And when you're in a majority that's different of a different background than you, and I have learned that it's not just white, it may be everybody else here is taller than me. That's in North Dakota.

Main Street

I'm with you there, by the way.

Dr. Jeremy Holloway, University of North Dakota

Okay, yeah. I mean, and I always say that lions never had to be taller than giraffes, so it's okay. I'd rather be a lion.

But anyway, I had to figure out that my opinion is okay. And my point of view is okay just because I'm a part of this race called the human race. That's my primary identity.

These other things, black, male, all these different things, that's my secondary identity. And I think the biggest problem in our whole world but in the United States is that we often overlook and kind of dismiss that primary identity like it's not even there. And we more put on a pedestal our secondary identities and forget about these primary ones.

I remember that I have a primary identity that connects me with you way stronger than any of the other ones, even though those other ones are important, but they're not when we forget about the first one.

Main Street

You shared with us earlier that you're a father.

Dr. Jeremy Holloway, University of North Dakota


Main Street

Is our country in a better place today relative to these issues of race that were so concerning to Dr. King than it was when you were a young child?

Dr. Jeremy Holloway, University of North Dakota

Oh man. Yeah, I mean, as a father, I think about this every single day. I think about the world that my kids are being brought up in right now.

And it scares me in a good way. Like it makes me alert every day. What scares you?

What scares me is if I don't help give my kids a perspective, that's what scares me. So thankfully I've been given a precious gift called 18 to 21 years, maybe, of giving my... And this is the most precious gift.

Our kids are born loving and honoring us. Like really, that's a gift, right? They love us just because we're parents, right?

That's an opportunity. That one, it gives me proper respect. I call it fear sometimes, but a proper respect to give them this perspective that I hope is grounded and helps them when they're out there in the world, right?

Because they're always going to look at everything through the lens of how they were raised and brought up. And you know what? It actually doesn't even matter how crazy the world is out there.

If I take advantage of these 18 to 21 years, and my parents did that for me. So, and I'm gonna share about that in the event tomorrow. They did it.

And I'm so grateful that every day that goes by, actually, I realize how amazing what they actually did. And my dad was kind of brought up in an environment where his dad wasn't the ideal dad for him. So, you know, someone could say, oh, Jeremy, you grew up with these two parents and they never divorced, they were always together and they're still together today.

That's just, no, but my dad, I remember my dad's story though. And my dad didn't have that. And so I have both, you know, and I think about both.

And I understand that if you didn't have that, you could still have it, choose to have it and have it for your children, no matter what's how crazy it is out there.

Main Street

As we conclude our conversation, what would you tell me is the most least understood legacy that Dr. King gives to us?

Dr. Jeremy Holloway, University of North Dakota

The most least understood legacy is the legacy for humanity and the legacy that you have a right to listen to that small voice inside of you. Every human being has the right to, our forefathers in the United States called it life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But that could be also summed up in that small voice inside of you.

You have a right to listen to that voice. And every human being is born with that right. And I want every single person to remember that for the rest of their life.

That is their legacy that they can pass down to their children.

Main Street

Dr. Jeremy Holloway, he's an assistant professor and director of geriatrics education at the University of North Dakota. He'll be speaking in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King week tomorrow at the University of Jamestown. That'll be at seven o'clock.

Dr. Holloway, it's been a pleasure.

Dr. Jeremy Holloway, University of North Dakota

Thank you so much, Craig.

Main Street

Thanks for joining us on Main Street.

Dr. Jeremy Holloway, University of North Dakota

I appreciate it.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted. Every hill and mountain shall be made low. The rough places will be made plain and the crooked places will be made straight.

And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is a faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and mole hill of Mississippi from every mountainside. Let freedom ring, and when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, free at last, free at last.

Thank God almighty, we are free at last. We are free at last.