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The Eastern Echo Thursday, May 30, 2024 | Print Archive
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Martin Luther King Jr. week of celebration returns to EMU with new leadership

Every year since 1986, Eastern Michigan University has put on a series of events to honor and celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This year’s theme for the week of programs is "Driven By The Dream" in commemoration of Dr. King’s "I Have a Dream" speech, which he gave on Aug. 28, 1963.

The week will include lectures, panel discussions, performances, art displays, and more. Planned by a committee of almost 50 individuals and co-chaired by newly appointed Chief Diversity Officer Dwight Hamilton, the events encompass a variety of ways for students and community members to get involved.

“It’s one of a few opportunities that we have during the year to really bring the community together under a common theme, and that’s why we have programming,” Hamilton said.

On Jan. 15, a LEGO mosaic entitled Walk to Freedom plans to be revealed. Also that day, the MLK President’s Luncheon will be held, featuring a keynote address given by Victoria Pratt.

Another member of the planning committee, Terrill Johnson-Oatman, hopes these MLK celebrations amplify the diversity of EMU’s campus, and continue to make it a more inclusive place.

“We want everybody to feel as if they are heard and have a voice, even as the underdog,” Johnson-Oatman said. “This is one of the most diverse campuses in Michigan, and I feel like having this helps us continue that tradition and legacy.”

With 45% of students at EMU self-identifying as a race other than white, according to EMU-collected data, campus diversity and inclusion is certainly a key conversation. As EMU’s Chief Diversity Officer, creating a diverse and equitable campus is part of Hamilton’s job. This year’s MLK celebrations were his first time as being a part of the planning committee, and he looks forward to ways he can innovate the programming in years to come.

“I really do want to talk about the fullness of Dr. King in future programming,” Hamilton said. "The 'I Have a Dream' speech is certainly significant and his best known address, but he wrote a lot, he spoke a lot, he had a lot of important things to say. I would like to focus on the fullness of his teachings in the future.”

The celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. is a tradition that has been celebrated yearly on EMU's campus. After the holiday was federally recognized in 1983, late president of Eastern Michigan University, John W. Porter, was requested to be a member of the State Commission responsible for the implementation of a state observation of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. From the front page of The Eastern Echo in 1986, a weekend of fundraising efforts and speeches two days after the first annual celebration of the holiday became what is now known as EMU's MLK Jr. Celebration tradition.