University to honor Martin Luther King Jr. in 10-day long celebration

Mariana Alfaro , Assistant Campus Editor

Northwestern will hold its annual 10-day Martin Luther King Jr. celebration starting Saturday with a day of service. The events include a candlelight vigil Monday night in Alice Millar Chapel and a speech by civil rights lawyer and activist Michelle Alexander.

For the first time in NU history, the celebration will include a student oratorical contest held Monday at Norris University Center’s McCormick Auditorium. Three students will recite orations inspired by King, and the winner will speak during the keynote event.

“This is the first time we have tried to engage students in actively participating in and thinking about King and also giving an opportunity for the students to be showcased in the keynote address,” said Medill Prof. Charles Whitaker, a co-chair for the celebration’s planning committee and a Students Publishing Company board member.

The keynote speaker this year is Alexander, who currently works at both the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University. She will speak at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall on Jan. 26 at 6 p.m.

“Michelle Alexander’s book ‘The New Jim Crow’ is a really trenchant work that looks at the issues of today that are affecting the African-American community,” Whitaker said. “It is a new way of looking at institutional racism and beginning to address the still nagging problems of racism.”

Alexander also helped lead a national campaign against racial profiling through law enforcement while serving as the director of the Racial Justice Project for the ACLU of Northern California.

Members of Alpha Phi Alpha at NU are collaborating with University Chaplain Timothy Stevens on this year’s candlelight vigil in honor of King.

“Dr. King was an Alpha and the Alphas have taken the lead in helping the University organize the proper celebration of Dr. King, even before there was a holiday,”  Stevens, the planning committee’s other co-chair, said.

Carol Moseley Braun, former ambassador of the United States to New Zealand and Samoa, will speak during the candlelight vigil. The former presidential candidate remains the only African-American woman to have ever served in the U.S. Senate.

“Traditionally the purpose of the candlelight speakers is to recognize the importance of the religious conventions that Dr. King embodied,” Stevens said. “He was a minister, he served churches … all of this was important to his civil rights work and with the candlelight vigil we hope to highlight that.”

Both the keynote and the candlelight vigil events are open to the general public, with sign language translation provided.

A screening of the documentary “White Like Me” is scheduled for Jan. 26 at 4:30 p.m. at the Graduate Student Commons, as well as Harambee, an event co-sponsored by African American Student Affairs and For Members Only that will be held Jan. 30 at the Louis Room in Norris University Center.

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