Students and faculty plan week of events to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.

Rebecca Savransky, Assistant Campus Editor

A weeklong celebration in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. kicked off Saturday with Northwestern students and faculty coming together for the second time since the day was made an official University holiday.

Planning for the week began last spring for the series of events to commemorate the day including a film screening and panel discussion.

The week’s events are very similar to last year’s series, Medill Prof. Charles Whitaker said. Many events were carried over from previous years including keynote speakers and the candlelight vigil.

“We pretty much stuck to the script,” said Whitaker, a Students Publishing Co. board member. “We used the blueprint from last year to plan this year.”

He said a main difference was having atmospheric science expert Warren Washington serve as a keynote speaker on Monday. In the past, keynote speakers have been primarily ministers or politicians, but this year the committee chose to go a different route to bring in new perspectives, Whitaker said.

Other events this weekend included a day of service, where students contributed to service projects throughout Evanston and Chicago. The University also continued Eva Jefferson Day, an event that took place last year during which Chicago Public Schools’ students came to NU to do craft projects and engage in discussions about Martin Luther King Jr.

Events will continue throughout the week with various dialogues, panel discussions and film screenings focusing on discussions of diversity and social injustices. The week also includes Harambee, the kick-off event for Black History Month, co-sponsored by African American Student Affairs, with performances and presentations.

“It’s a week-long program, and it’s open to the public,” said Dona Cordero, assistant provost for diversity and inclusion and chair for the MLK Day planning committee. “We just thought to spread it out over the week would give more people the opportunity to participate.”

The week will culminate Monday Jan. 27 with keynote speaker Myrlie Evers-Williams, former chairperson of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Evers-Williams will speak after the actual national holiday so more people will be on campus to attend, Cordero said.

“It’s the highlight of the program,” Cordero said.

Students participating in the planning committee said they were excited about the upcoming events and thought it was important to commemorate the day.

“I think in general, students should think about their role in perpetuating Dr. King’s vision and dream for equality and think about what they can do in their personal lives to embody this,” said Brandan Matthews, a committee member and McCormick senior. “It’s important for us to not only remember his vision but also see how it applies to other people’s lives.”

Matthews said he hopes students will draw inspiration from this week to give back to the community, as each planned event had a clear purpose speaking to specific parts of King’s vision.

Cordero said she is looking forward to the upcoming week and hopes students and faculty attend and engage with the programs.

“The hope is that people will remember what Dr. King has done for the country, celebrate the accomplishment but also think about how we can all get more involved in service to other people,” she said. “It’s a day of reflection and a day of thinking about action.”

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