MLK Celebration Week to feature seven events over five days
Tradition marches on with the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Week starting Jan. 16.
Nearly 54 years after King made his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, Central Michigan University will honor the former civil rights activist with seven events from Jan. 16 to Jan. 20 presented by Multicultural Academic Student Services (MASS).
Jonathan Glenn, MASS assistant director of scholarships and mentoring, said while the university is closed for the holiday — it is not a day off.
The celebration begins with the annual CommUnity Peace Brunch on Monday at 10 a.m. in Finch Fieldhouse. Glenn said about 700 people attended the brunch last year.
The brunch will feature guest speaker Russell Harris, who serves as principal of the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy in Detroit. In addition, freshman Caitlin Crutcher, senior Johnnie Buck and graduate student DaLaun Dillard will compete in the annual oratorical contest. The trio will give speeches with education as the theme, Glenn said. Each will receive a plaque and stipend, but the winner of the crowd vote will receive the highest dollar amount.
The brunch will transition into the MLK Day of Service in the Bovee University Center, an event sponsored by the Mary Ellen Brandell Volunteer Center.
Robert Zinger, a graduate assistant for campus programs in the Volunteer Center, said participants will have an opportunity to register for service projects on OrgSync before they are passed off to brunch attendees. Registration is first come, first serve.
Zinger said volunteers will meet at noon in the UC Rotunda to learn about the day and who's benefiting from the projects before breaking off into groups.
Day of Service options include making fleece blankets for local foster care children through the Department of Health and Human Services and transforming the Volunteer Center glass walls into an "I Have a Dream" mural, Zinger said.
“I think sometimes we look back at the civil rights movement and it can be intimidating to think about making a big change," Zinger said. "The whole day of service reminds people they can do little things like this to make a change in their community.”
The day will finish with the CommUnity Peace March & Vigil at 3 p.m. The route will start at the University Center before the group marches toward downtown Mount Pleasant, where a vigil will take place, said D'Wayne Jenkins, MASS assistant director for cultural programming and mentoring.
MASS will screen the 2014 film "Selma" at noon Tuesday in the Center for Inclusion and Diversity Bovee UC, Room 108. Jenkins said a discussion will follow.
“It’s one of those midday things where it gives students something to do if they have some break time in between classes," Jenkins said. "I would love to see them come out.”
Jelani Cobb, the week's keynote speaker, will address students and faculty at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the UC Rotunda. Cobb is a staff writer at The New Yorker and a journalism professor at Columbia University.
On Thursday, "A Night of Reflection: Inspired Poems and Spoken Word," is slated for 6 p.m. in the Center for Inclusion and Diversity. The event will feature poems from CMU students and staff, Glenn said.
The celebration concludes with the Staff/Student Charity Basketball game at 6 p.m. Friday in the Student Activity Center Small Sports Forum. Donations are accepted and will be donated to a charity that has yet to be determined, Jenkins said. He said last year's proceeds were donated to aid those affected by the Flint water crisis.
The week is unique because it coincides with the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, who will be sworn into office on Jan. 20. Glenn said he believes if King were alive today, he feels he would work with Trump and advises others to do the same.
"Once (Trump is sworn in) on Jan. 20, I believe alongside him there will be a lot of people who (understand) he’s our president now," he said. "Let’s pray for the best for him. Let’s hope he does his job well and let’s wish him the best.”
Jenkins said he hopes to see a larger turnout than last year at the brunch and is hopeful for a good week overall.
"Sometimes in today’s world we lose sight of what’s going on," he said. "I think it’s a beautiful thing that it’s at the beginning of the semester so it motivates us throughout the year.”