Eastern has had a long tradition of hosting events, discussions and memorials for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. For EMU’s 29th celebration, the MLK Celebration Committee has a new theme: “Breaking the Illusion: The Movement Continues.” This year’s events will take up four days, culminating with six events on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
In this time of heightened tension between the public and the police over the way local law enforcement handled the cases of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, MLK Day has a renewed meaning. All three men were African-American and died at the hands of local police.
Thursday, Jan. 15
Starting Thursday, an MLK commemorative march will kick off at 6 p.m. at the north door of the Student Center. Hot chocolate will be handed out to marchers who explore campus to study historical artifacts located on the grounds.
When the march is concluded, an MLK kickoff discussion will occur in the Student Center Auditorium. The discussion topics will include the film “Hidden Colors 2.” This event is free and refreshments will be served.
Friday, Jan. 16
VISION will host a morning of volunteer service opportunities with local non-profits from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Volunteers will meet in the Student Center Ballroom for check-in and education about their service. Transportation will be provided to volunteers who can sign-up at MLK Day of Service Sign-up.
The EMU Poetry Society will be hosting a celebration called The Color of the Drums at Pease Auditorium. Acclaimed spoken word artist Jasmine Mans is the featured performer. The doors open at 6:30 and the free show starts at 7.
Saturday, Jan. 17
Saturday, the H2E student talent showcase will start at 7 p.m. at Pease. This is a performing arts competition with themes related to the civil rights movement. EMU students will be competing for one of three scholarships.
Sunday, Jan. 18
On Sunday, a town hall panel discussion will take place from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Student Center Auditorium. Elected officials from the Ypsilanti area will meet to discuss social issues facing modern society.
Monday, Jan. 19 (MLK Day)
Then comes MLK Day itself. Events will start with a free breakfast at the room 300 in the Student Center. From 7:45 a.m. to 9 a.m., breakfast will be free to all. In the background, clips from some of Dr. King's most inspirational speeches will be played.
Afterward, Dick Gregory, a comedian and civil rights activist, will deliver a keynote address at 10 a.m. in the Student Center Auditorium. Attendance to the keynote is free. The MLK President's Luncheon following the keynote speech will cost $10 for students and $20 for faculty and guests. Tickets are unavailable online but you can get them at the EMU Ticket Office, Convocation Center or Student Center ticket offices.
Also on MLK Day will be CloseUp. CloseUp is a theater troupe that will be doing performances related to racial and social issues. But according to the MLK Day press release, the point of the performance isn't to moralize social issues. The performances are intended to be open ended, to foster discussion about the social problems the country faces. Not to tell the audience what's right.
Finally, there will be an afterglow celebration from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in room 300 in the Student Center. It will honor two retiring EMU faculty members, Judy Sturgis-Hill and Kay Woodiel.