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Here’s How the U is Celebrating MLK Week

Events include a rally and march, a special exhibition focusing on Utah’s Black history, a keynote speech from Ruth E. Carter and a MLK Week version of “Reframing the Conversation, among several others.
University+of+Utah+MLK+Week+celebrations+on+Jan.+16%2C+2023+%7C+Photo+by+Patrick+Hardwig+from+Hardwig+Media%29
University of Utah MLK Week celebrations on Jan. 16, 2023 | Photo by Patrick Hardwig from Hardwig Media)

 

For the 40th year in a row, the University of Utah is honoring civil rights activist and reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy during MLK week from Jan. 13 to Jan. 19 by holding 15 events.

The theme for the 2024 celebration comes from the last book Dr. King completed during his lifetime, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?”

“The theme offers a celebration of the past as it looks forward to the next four-plus decades to come,” said Jasen Lee, manager of public relations and marketing for the U. “While great strides have been made over the past 40 years, there is still much work still to do in the years ahead.”

Lee added that this year marks a significant milestone in the U’s history of commemorating King’s legacy.

“With all that is going on in the country and around the globe relating to civil rights for underrepresented groups, this year’s MLK celebration is a strong reminder of what it means to acknowledge every individual’s humanity in the continued effort to uplift us all,” Lee said.

MLK Day Rally & March

In honor of King’s legacy and the work of other Civil Rights activists, the U is also holding a rally and march on MLK day, Jan. 15. Lee said for the first time, this year’s rally and march will be televised in its entirety statewide. 

The march will kick off at 2:30 p.m. at East High School, where attendees can park. The plan is to march to Kingsbury Hall from 3 to 4 p.m., where warm drinks and cookies will be provided. 

Signs for the march and shuttle rides back to East High School will also be supplied.

Step Afrika! 

Immediately following the MLK Rally and March, there will be a performance from Step Afrika!, the first professional dance company in the world dedicated to the tradition of stepping, a form of percussive dance in African-American culture. 

The event is at Kingsbury Hall at 4:30 p.m.

“Drawing inspiration from the rhythmic and percussive styles of historically African American fraternities and sororities, Step Afrika! infuses these traditions with traditional West and Southern African dances,” the event description reads.

Moving Forward by Looking Back

On Jan. 16, the Marriott Library is holding a special exhibition focusing on Utah’s Black history from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m in the Gould Auditorium. 

The event will also feature a discussion with Rae Duckworth, president of the Utah Black History Museum, and Tarienne Mitchell, curator, historian and archivist for the Utah Black History Museum. 

The museum “is committed to promoting the understanding, appreciation, and advancement of the Black experience in Utah through programming, exhibits, and activities that teach local and national Black history and celebrate the culture of the African Diaspora in the United States,” the event description reads.

Keynote Speech

MLK Week will also feature a keynote speech from Ruth E. Carter, a two-time Academy Award-winning American film costume designer, from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. on Jan. 16 in the S.J. Quinney College of Law Moot Courtroom.

People can also join the event virtually via live stream on this page.

Carter has over three decades of film, television and theater experience, earning seventy credits and collaborating with well-known directors such as Spike Lee, Steven Spielberg and Ava DuVernay.

Reframing the Conversation: Where Do We Go From Here?

The U will also hold an MLK Week version of “Reframing the Conversation,” a “monthly series that brings together experts from across the campus and community to spark important conversations around equity, othering, and safety,” the event website reads.

The event will be held on Jan. 17 from 12 to 1 p.m. at the Hinckley Institute of Politics. There will also be a live stream that can be viewed here.

It will also include a four-person panel discussing what might be next in the ongoing fight for civil rights in Utah and across the country.

Dance Justice Deliverance: Dance Theatre of Harlem

On Jan. 18, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. in the Marriott Center for Dance, the U is holding an event that will explore the “legacies of the Dance Theatre of Harlem and its place as a leading ambassador of American culture,” according to the event website.

The event will bring together three researchers engaged in a publication project devoted to the artistry, social circumstances, histories and performances of the ballet company. 

MLK Economic Plenary

The U will also hold the “MLK Economic Plenary,” which will feature a keynote address by Ashley Bell, former White House advisor and co-founder and CEO of Redemption Holding.

The organization, supported by Bernice King — the daughter of King and Coretta Scott King, aims to expand access to capital for people of color. Its first project is Redemption Bank in Holladay, Utah, which is the first Black-owned bank in the Rockies.

The event will be held on Jan. 18 from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. in the Garff Executive Education Building Auditorium.

After the keynote address, there will be a panel of leading experts from across Utah who will “delve into critical issues surrounding economic disparities and strategies for fostering greater equity in our society through access to financial infrastructure and resources,” the event website reads.

Student Voices Rising: A Celebration of Activism

The U will conclude MLK Week with the event “Student Voices Rising: A Celebration of Activism,” which aims to “celebrate the legacy of students who fought for equality during the Civil Rights Movement,” according to the event website.

The event will be on Jan. 19 from 4 to 6 p.m. in Unity Lounge in the A. Ray Olpin Student Union building.

It will also feature a panel with student leaders from around the U’s campus to discuss what student activism looks like today.

Lee said that, in truth, a week is “not enough time to honor all that Dr. King has meant to civil rights as arguably the preeminent figure in American history in that realm.”

“But the hope is to present information and opportunities for intellectual and cultural enlightenment, allowing individuals of all backgrounds to learn something that will serve as a lesson about what Dr. King dedicated his life to — love for all mankind,” Lee said.

 

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About the Contributor
Andrew Christiansen, Online Managing Editor
Andrew Christiansen was the Assistant Editor of the news desk at the Chrony for a year before becoming Online Managing Editor in May 2023. He graduated from Salt Lake Community College with his associate degree in journalism and digital media in 2021. Andrew has also been a SLUG Magazine contributor since the summer of 2021 and has interned for KUER and The Salt Lake Tribune. When not writing or editing, Andrew can be found at concerts around Salt Lake (his favorite venues are Kilby Court and the Urban Lounge), watching movies at Salt Lake Film Society, or out on walks and hikes listening to music and podcasts.

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