King’s daughter to perform at MLK Day celebration

Michelle Ma

Yolanda King, eldest daughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., will speak at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration on Jan. 17.

King — who rarely speaks publicly on the holiday — will perform her own interpretation of her father’s contribution to the Civil Rights Movement, said Carretta Cooke, executive director for Multicultural Student Affairs. The production, called “Achieving the Dream,” has received eight NAACP Theater Image Award nominations and has been performed across the country.

Her 11 a.m. speech will be broadcast live in the Owen L. Coon Forum in Leverone Hall and the Ryan Family Auditorium in Technological Institute. A webcast will also be available.

A committee of students, faculty and staff secured King as the 2005 MLK day speaker over a year ago, Cooke said.

“It’s very important to hear from someone close enough to the Civil Rights Movement,” Cooke said. “It’s very rare to get that from a family member (of Dr. King’s).”

King — an internationally-known motivational speaker and actress — is the CEO and founder of Higher Ground Productions, an artistic production-based organization celebrating peace and diversity.

According to her Web site, King’s speeches usually touch on these issues and seek to inspire people to make a difference.

“Her presence and words and wisdom are going to provide for all of us an understanding of the work that still remains in pursuing a world of social equality,” said Alex Lurie, Associated Student Government Student Services Vice President and a Communication junior.

Last year, King co-authored a book titled “Open My Eyes, Open My Soul,” a collection of short stories, poems and essays. Her works as an actress include roles in “Selma, Lord, Selma” (1999), “Ghosts of Mississippi” (1996) and “Death of a Prophet” (1981).

In addition to directing and performing in productions, King has given numerous presentations and speeches at universities and at corporations.

King follows in the footsteps of her younger sister the Rev. Bernice King, who spoke during NU’s 2002 MLK day festivities.

ASG Academic Vice President Prajwal Ciryam said he was enthusiastic about having Yolanda King speak at NU and predicted a large turnout among faculty, staff and students.

“This year we’ll probably pack (Pick-Staiger) again,” said Ciryam, a Weinberg junior. “This day is probably one of the best opportunities to bring good speakers together and bring the campus together over that keynote speech.”

ASG representatives will continue to push for a whole day of cancelled classes to commemorate MLK day, instead of the established three-hour class cancellations from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., said Lurie and Ciryam.

Past student support and anticipation for this year’s events demonstrate student interest, Ciryam said.

“(Students) want to celebrate Dr. King and diversity,” he said. “That bolsters our efforts to have a whole day of celebrating.”

Reach Michelle Ma at [email protected]