MLK celebration to be marked through the arts

Today marked the beginning of the U’s 21st Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration. The event will run through Jan. 17 and features several key events, including “Sharing the Gift of Literacy,” a month-long community service project.

Since it began in 1985, the celebration has hosted such celebrities as Maya Angelou, Jeremiah Wright and Diane Reeves. It was created as a way to “bring the campus and the community together to honor King’s life, work and vision and explore his ideas in relation to current issues,” said Karen Dace, U Associate Vice President for Diversity.

“The very things that Dr. King strived for, such as civil rights and issues of inclusion are still very relevant today…perhaps more relevant today because so many people think that as a country we have come so far in issues of civil rights. There is still a lot of work to be done. The most dangerous thing is the apathy individuals can have today thinking that we have progressed to the point where nothing needs to be done,” said Leo Leckie, assistant to the associate vice president for diversity.

Dace added that the celebration will explore other ideas as well as African-American issues. “Martin Luther King Jr. changed this country. He didn’t just change the lives of African Americans, but the lives of every man or woman who considers themselves an American.”

Kicking off the event will be a presentation of the film “In Whose Honor?” tonight at the Union. The film puts into question the practice of using American Indians as mascots and nicknames in sports. It tells the story of Charlene Teters, an American Indian mother who has been hailed as the Rosa Parks of American Indians. The screening will be followed by a discussion facilitated by Bryan Brayboy, director of the U’s American Indian Teacher Training Program.

About this issue, Dace commented, “We should ask ourselves, ‘Would it be OK for people to do that about my culture?’ I know it wouldn’t be all right with me.”

Carlos Muoz Jr. will give the keynote speech for the celebration tomorrow at noon in the Union Ballroom. The author of the book, Youth, Identity, Power: The Chicano Movement, Munoz will highlight the theme “The Challenge for Multiracial Democracy in America.”

“Wasn’t it wonderful that people were able to sit in an audience at the U and listen to Martin Luther King Jr. not even realizing what was going to come. We strive to continue to bring people to campus who 40 to 50 years from now we will come to think of like Martin Luther King Jr.,” said Dace.

Other highlights of the celebration include an exhibit at the School of Medicine called, “The Human Rights Experience.” According to Dace, the idea for the exhibit came about when the Martin Luther King Celebration Committee here at the U was brainstorming ideas to mark the 20th year of the event.

“We were sitting around talking, wondering, what can we do for the 20th year? We wanted to do something different. When the idea of putting up an exhibit came up, students Sara Hogan and Kris Cannon took the idea and ran with it, searching university archives for information and photographs for the exhibit,” said Dace.

The exhibit, which opens today, includes a picture of King talking with former U professor JD Williams, as well as a letter to the editor of The Chronicle from Paul Robeson.

Additionally, California vocalist Ledisi, who has been praised as a combination of Tina Turner’s energy and Ella Fitzgerald’s vocals will perform with her band Anibade on Monday night at Kingsbury Hall. The concert is free but tickets are needed and must be picked up in advance. The event will be preceded by the Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Leadership Awards ceremony, which spotlights junior and senior high school students for outstanding leadership in their cultures and communities.

“This one man was able to have an impact that has gone on years after his death and has affected people who weren’t even born at the time he died,” says Dace.

For more information on the celebration, events, and the literacy campaign, call the Office of the Associate Vice President for Diversity at 801-587-9183.

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MLK week activities Jan. 1-31 Community Service Project “Sharing the Gift of Literacy.” Donations of school supplies, new English and bilingual dictionaries and children’s books (in various languages) to benefit West High School’s Family Literacy Center can be deposited at University campus drop-off locations including the Women’s Resource Center, the Union Room 293, the U Bookstore, Alumni House, Eccles Health Science Library and the Fine Arts Desk at the Marriott Library. Jan. 12 Feature Film & Discussion, 7 p.m., Union Theatre, “In Whose Honor? American Indian Mascots in Sports” Jan. 13 Keynote Address, Noon, Union Ballroom, speaker Dr. Carlos Muoz Jr., expert on ethnic and racial politics, multiculturalism, immigration and affirmative action. Jan. 13 A Forum Theatre Exploration of “The Challenge,” 7:30 p.m., Union East Ballroom Jan. 14 Feature Film & Discussion, 7 p.m., Union Theatre, “Mumia Abu Jamal: A Case for Reasonable Doubt?” Jan. 16 KUED Presentation, 5 p.m., KUED-Channel 7, “One on One: An Interview with Dr. Carlos Muoz Jr.” Jan. 17 Cultural Performance and Presentation of MLK Youth Leadership Awards, 6:30 p.m., Kingsbury Hall. Free, but ticket required. Soul singer Ledisi and her band Anibade.