Dr. MLK Jr. Day of Service to be celebrated virtually on Monday

Last year’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day concluded with an in-person celebration in the Lawrewnce Memorial Chapel. This year’s celebration will be virtual.

Photo by Sarah Navy

Several virtual events are happening this Monday, Jan. 18, as a part of Lawrence’s celebration of the 2021 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service (MLK Day). Students and staff are encouraged to use their day without classes to engage in meaningful service and conversation that honors and advances Dr. King’s pivotal work as an activist for American civil rights. 

The day begins with a community discussion on “Heavy: An American Memoir” by Kiese Laymon for those who have read the book. Laymon is a part of Lawrence’s 2021 Convocation Series and will be giving his speech “The Radical Possibility and Democratic Necessity of Navel Gazing” on Jan. 28. 

This year’s other events are unique in that they were proposed and organized by students and student organizations on campus. In previous years, service opportunities and events were chosen solely by the Center for Community Engagement and Social Change (CCE). This year, the CCE asked students to offer their own proposals for what events they wanted to see, resulting in the 2021 lineup of service opportunities and events. 

The Disability Working Group is holding an event led by senior Alexandra Chand in which participants will learn how to advocate for disability rights-related legislation via communication with local and federal officials. On MLK  Day, participants will write scripts for emails and calls that they can then send to elected officials at a follow-up event in Feb. 

Senior Kye Harris is leading an event on anti-racist strategies that students can use to find solutions to combat discrimination. Harris is an economics and ethnic studies double major and was asked on behalf of the Department of Ethnic Studies to create a proposal for MLK Day this year. The event will comprise of a discussion of anti-racist strategies and collective brainstorming for actions that students as individuals, as well as institutions, can take to combat racial discrimination. 

“I feel like a lot of people can feel powerless, and a lot of these issues we’re trying to combat are large — and not just large but so systemic that they can feel impossible to eliminate,” Harris said. She went on to describe what she hopes participants will take away from the event, “However, I do think that there are things that all of us can do. There are things that all of us have in our toolbox that can help mitigate all these problems that we’re facing. I hope to really inspire people to take action because that’s the whole purpose of the MLK Day of Service.”

The final student-proposed event on Monday is Music For All’s concert in partnership with Riverview Gardens. Music For All has held free concerts at Riverview Gardens in past years and will present this year’s MLK Day concert virtually via Zoom and Facebook Live. Lawrence students and professors will perform pre-recorded music written by Black and Brown composers. 

“Music For All is about trying to bring Lawrence students to Appleton, to share our music and to have dialogue with [the Appleton] audience,” said junior Jacob Dikelsky, who is hosting the event on MLK Day. Any students interested in performing in later concerts with Music For All can contact Dikelsky, Professor of Music Michael Mizrahi or Associate Professor of Music Erin Lesser for more information. 

Finally, the day will end with Lawrence’s MLK Day 2021 keynote speaker Dr. Betinna Love, Ph.D. Love is an educator, activist, author and advocate for Abolitionist Teaching, which calls for improvement and accountability in the American education system. Love’s speech “Abolitionist Life: Resistance, Creativity, Hip Hop Civics Ed, Intersectionality and Black Joy” will be paired with a musical performance by Griot B entitled “Agitate: A Story Through Song.” 

Information on how to register for the 2021 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service events can be found at www.lawrence.edu/students/volunteer/MLK2021