This year marks the 34th annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. at the University of Utah.
Every year, the Office of Equity and Diversity commemorates the legacy and life of King during the week of the holiday with events and activities that focus on a select topic related to race issues. Previous themes include “Beneath the Hoodie: A Look at Racial Profiling in America” in 2014, and “Activism: Now it’s our Turn” in 2016.
This year, events will revolve around the theme “Toxic: A Conversation on Environmental Racism.”
According to a prepared statement from the Office for Equity and Diversity, this theme was chosen because it “addresses the intentionality of environmental racism through systems and policies that regulate zoning laws, chemical and toxic waste and access to natural resources that disproportionately affect communities of color.”
Events will focus on both national and local problems and feature speakers and guests from Utah and throughout the country.
The celebration began on Saturday, Jan. 13 with a day of service at Union Building, where students worked with the U’s Bennion Community Service Center and other local organizations, including the Best Friends Animal Society and The Road Home, to complete a variety of projects in the community. These ranged from making sleeping mats for the homeless to making craft kits for children staying at Primary Children’s Hospital.
The 10th annual march and rally, which is to be held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, will start in the East High School Auditorium. Attendees will march together from the high school to Kingsbury Hall at the U. The event is a march to advocate equality and unity in the community.
Other events include Toxic: A Conversation on Environmental Racism, which is an expert panel hosted in the S.J. Quinney College of Law’s Moot Room on Jan. 17, and the Hinckley Institute’s Pizza and Politics on Jan. 18, a panel discussion on environmental racism including local activists and experts, which will be moderated by Franci Taylor, the director of the American Indian Resource Center at the U.
The World of Children’s Literature is sponsoring an event featuring Jacqueline Woodson, an award-winning young adult and children’s author and the 2014 National Book Award Winner for her memoir “Brown Girl Dreaming,” which also won the NAACP Image Award. Woodson will be speaking in the Gould Auditorium at the J. Willard Marriott Library on Jan. 23.
All MLK Week events and activities are free and open to the public. Some of the events require that attendants be registered or RSVP. More detailed information on events and accessibility can be found at diversity.utah.edu/mlk.