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University to Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr., Day

Speakers will discuss civil rights leader’s legacy, movement’s future


Free at Last, the University’s sculpture honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., was erected on Marsh Plaza in 1975. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the federal holiday commemorating the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. (GRS’55, Hon.’59). Organizers of the University’s 2011 remembrance ceremony decided to explore the question, is celebrating MLK Day still relevant?

“King’s message of justice and equality for all people is still relevant today—and is always relevant,” says Elisabeth Douglass, Marsh Chapel associate for LGBTQ students.

The University’s annual observance will begin on Sunday, January 16, with a service at Marsh Chapel at 11 a.m. Douglass will preach a sermon titled What Are You Seeking?

“My topic shifts from King to what kind of work we need to do today for basic human rights,” she says. “Specifically, I’m thinking about LGBT issues, which is definitely the viewpoint I’m coming from and the work that I do.”

Campus leaders, faculty, and students are invited to gather on Monday for a commemoration observing the King holiday in the George Sherman Union’s Metcalf Hall at 1 p.m. The civil rights leader and 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner, who would have turned 82 tomorrow, was assassinated in 1968.

This year’s event focuses on questions that impact social change: where will the next generation of leaders find their motivation? What will they march for? What can today’s students learn from King and the civil rights leaders of yesterday? Do we need to march again to ensure realization of King’s dream of racial equality?

Speakers include Victor Coelho, associate provost for undergraduate education, Hardin Coleman, dean of the School of Education, Imani-Sheila Newsome Camara, School of Theology assistant dean for student affairs, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (CAS’11).

“Over the past two decades, progress toward social justice has stalled and has begun to slide,” says Coleman. “Just like in the 1920s, economic progress for African and Latin Americans is now threatened. The conditions that gave rise to the civil rights movement are returning. I look forward to hearing what others think should happen now, and to share my perspective.”

Ocasio-Cortez will address the question, can this be the next great generation? “I think the question is, how can we be great?” she says. “The issues today are completely different than MLK faced in the ’60s. And I think it’s safe to say the issues of today aren’t simple anymore; they aren’t black-and-white.”

The commemoration will also include a performance by the Inner Strength Gospel Choir, as well as a musical performance by students to answer the question, what would the movement sound like today? 

The Universitys celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day will be broadcast live, using Boston University’s channel on UStream.

Marsh Chapel’s annual MLK sermon is at 11 a.m. Sunday, January 16, at Marsh Chapel, 735 Commonwealth Ave.

MLKs life and work will be commemorated at 1 p.m. Monday, January 17, in the George Sherman Union Metcalf Ballroom during the Universitys annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Day observance. Find out more about the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center’s MLK collection here.

Kimberly Cornuelle can be reached at kcornuel@bu.edu.

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