Tavis Smiley speaks to remember MLK

Sammy Caiola

An audience of all ages and races filled Pick-Staiger Concert Hall Monday to celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Celebration of the holiday began Saturday with an interfaith event at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center, 1655 Foster Street, Evanston,and ended Monday with a keynote address from Tavis Smiley and a candlelight vigil.

Smiley, a renowned radio host and author of 14 books, spoke about how to be “Kingian,” which he said includes a commitment to “justice for all, service for others and a love that liberates everyone.” He addressed the Arizona shooting, health care and living wage, encouraging audience members to speak up about important issues.

“We are going to lose our country if more of us don’t find the courage and the conviction to be Kingian and start telling some cold, hard truth,” Smiley said.

Monday’s event featured performances by the University Chorale, Northwestern Community Ensemble and the Jazz Small Ensemble. After the keynote address, Medill junior Ngozi Ekeledo conducted an on-stage interview with Smiley.

University President Morton Schapiro was unable to speak at the event due to the recent passing of his mother, but University Provost Dan Linzer spoke in his place. Evanston mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl also gave remarks at the podium, as did Associated Student Government President Claire Lew. Both Linzer and Smiley made references to the Arizona shooting in their speeches.

“We have another recent tragedy that we think about today, and how we can engage in political dialogue,” Linzer said. “To listen and participate in conversations where we have different points of view, but to listen respectfully and with an effort to understand each other, and so try to make today and tomorrow better for all of us.”

Some students make a point of celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day and are careful not to treat it as “a day off,” Medill junior Ashleigh Joplin.

“If it wasn’t for the man we’re celebrating today, I wouldn’t be here,” Joplin said “It’s about giving praise and thanks. Every year I try to make it to the events. They’re always wonderful, they’re always worth it. The only reason NU gives (the holiday) to us is so that we can celebrate. It shouldn’t be a day off. It should be a day of activity.”

The weekend’s events were organized by a 22-member planning committee comprised of students and faculty, which has been organizing this celebration since last February, said Jason Hanson, a member of the 2011 MLK planning committee .

“It’s a great chance to contribute to the Northwestern community and bring these kinds of events to campus,” Hanson said.