The Carolina community will celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. with a series of events and engagement opportunities beginning Jan. 15. This year’s theme for the annual Week of Celebration is “Finding Our Way Forward.”
“In celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, we strive to honor his message of service to others, committing to the ideals of community service, and creating a more inclusive and equitable community,” said Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer Leah Cox. “We hope that each planned event will encourage us to reflect upon the message of unity and brotherhood, love rather than violence and hatred in order to build a better world and a better Carolina.”
The week’s events begin with the 38th annual MLK Jr. Memorial Banquet on Sunday, Jan. 15, 6 p.m., at the William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education, hosted by the MLK Jr. University/Community Planning Corporation, in partnership with the University Office for Diversity and Inclusion. The event raises scholarship funding for local high school students and celebrates the work of community members who have demonstrated a commitment to community building, civic engagement and racial and religious cooperation.
Carolina’s Leah Cox will be the banquet’s keynote speaker. In her role, Cox informs and implements the University’s strategy, processes and infrastructure related to community building and serves as a member of both the chancellor’s and provost’s leadership cabinets.
Tickets for the event are $40 and can be purchased in person from a committee member or online.
Day of service
The MLK Jr. Day of Service will offer Tar Heels the opportunity to collaborate with the community in a service project by supporting a food drive for Carolina Cupboard, which provides food assistance to individuals in the Carolina community. The Strike! Against Hunger Food Drive will be Monday, Jan. 16, 3-5 p.m. Donations should be nonperishable items, and the first 20 people to bring four items will receive free entry to the Mardi Gras Bowling Center, an hour of bowling and a T-shirt.
Lecture and awards ceremony
The largest event of the Week of Celebration is the MLK Jr. Lecture and Awards Ceremony, which will be Wednesday, Jan. 18, 6 p.m., at Moeser Auditorium in Hill Hall. Each year, this signature event includes performances and entertainment by various student organizations and features a nationally recognized keynote speaker. This year’s headliner is civil rights attorney Ben Crump, whose practice has represented the families of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and George Floyd, among others. In 2021, Time magazine included Crump in its annual list of the world’s 100 most influential people.
Previous keynote speakers include journalist Soledad O’Brien, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, former NAACP President/activist Benjamin Jealous and many others over the past four decades.
The MLK UNC Student Scholarship, the Harvey Beech Scholarship and the MLK Unsung Hero awards will be presented at the event.
Tar Heel student organizations, performance arts groups, clubs and others will present the 42nd annual edition of the nation’s longest-standing collegiate celebration in honor of MLK Jr.’s life and legacy. Entertainment will include a cappella singing, dance and poetry, along with showcases of other work by student-led organizations. The event will be Sunday, Jan. 22, 5:30 p.m., at the Frank Porter Graham Student Union auditorium, and will include low lights, couches, food and music for a lounge-like feel.
More information about the week’s events can be found on the Office for Diversity and Inclusion website.