This week marks what would be the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 87th birthday. To honor his legacy, Western is bringing some big names to campus for a celebration on Tuesday, Jan. 19, from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m.
The speakers include the Rev. Marshall Hatch of Chicago, Illinois; TJ Robinson II from Lynden High School and poet Crystal Valentine, a New York University student.
Leonard Jones, Western’s director of university residences, is one of the organizers for the event. He hopes students will take away inspiration to live King’s legacy, he said.
“What I’d like for our students to take away from this is that when they graduate and they go out into the larger society, [they know] how to make a positive impact, given all the challenges,” Jones said.
What to Expect: Speaker Rundown
Reverend Marshall Hatch
Hatch is a civil rights leader who partners with the Cure Violence program, an organization originally created in 2000 to reduce gun violence and homicides in Chicago. According to Cure Violence’s website, the program was first launched in West Garfield Park, the neighborhood where Hatch’s church, New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, is located.
“He has done a lot of work there in the community in terms of social justice and some of the other high profile, unfortunate police shootings that have been happening. He has been very instrumental in working with the community there,” Jones said. “Those are the types of things that Dr. King dedicated his life to.”
Another speaker is 15-year-old Robinson, who won the Rosa Parks Quiet Courage award in 2013. The contest challenges participants to write about how to preserve Rosa Parks’ legacy, according to Western’s press release. In the two following years, Robinson won oratorical contests during the Alachua County Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in Florida, according to the press release. He is also the son of Shari Robinson, the director of Western’s counseling center, said Paul Cocke, Western’s director of communications and marketing.
The last speaker will be Valentine, the 2015 New York City Youth Poet Laureate. Valentine’s performances, which Jones described as powerful, are informed by her experiences as a woman of color.
This is the second time Western has hosted an event like this, when it was created last year by then AS President Annika Wolters, who felt frustrated that Martin Luther King Jr. hadn’t been previously honored or celebrated on campus, said Belina Seare, Associated Students President.
“It’s obviously a super important event that’s been lacking on this campus,” Palumbo said.
The event will be held in the Wilson Library Reading Room and is free and open to the public.