Sunday, November 23, 2014

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King’s Legacy of Public Service and Social Justice Echoes Through U.Va. Commemoration

Hundreds of people from the University of Virginia and surrounding communities gathered at more than 30 events over several weeks in January and early February to discuss and celebrate the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Beginning Jan. 13 with the 28th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration at Mt. Zion First African Baptist Church and concluding Feb. 8 with a screening of “Walk On: The Rosa Parks Story” at the Paramount Theater, guest speakers, panel discussions, workshops, film showings and musical performances commemorated King’s influence in a variety of arenas from public service to health care.

Dr. Marcus Martin, U.Va. vice president and chief officer for diversity and equity, attributed the success of the King celebration to “the strong collaboration between community and University, the enthusiastic planning committee members, the Office for Diversity and Equity staff members’ diligence and the support of President Sullivan.”

More than 100 individuals, including members of student, academic and civic organizations, participate each year in planning the celebration, Martin said.

The theme for the 2013 Community MLK Celebration was “From Montgomery to Main,” referring to the impact of King’s work here in Charlottesville on our own Main Street, he said.

Black leaders extended King’s messages to present-day issues, featuring Kweisi Mfume, former president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Robert M. Franklin Jr., visiting scholar in residence at Stanford University’s Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute and former president of Morehouse College; and Julian Bond, professor emeritus of history in U.Va.’s College of Arts & Sciences and one of the foremost leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.

On Jan. 30, Bond was honored at an event in the Paramount Theater, which included a screening of “Julian Bond: Reflections from the Frontlines of the Civil Rights Movement,” a film by Eduardo Montes-Bradley, followed by a conversation between Bond and U.Va. history professor Phyllis Leffler.

Sullivan lauded Bond’s influence at U.Va. and discussed the campaign to establish an endowed professorship of civil rights and social justice in his name, saying it is important for students to know about and understand the Civil Rights Movement.

“Endowing a chair in Julian’s honor will enable future generations of students to study civil and human rights,” she said.

On “Shadow a Health Professional Day,” U.Va. undergraduates followed physicians in clinical settings, while high school students heard about career and academic options in health care practice and research. 

Faculty member Ervin Jordan, an archivist in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, curated an exhibition titled “Embracing Equality: Before and Beyond Brown v. Board of Education, 1950-1969: An American Civil Rights Exhibition.” The exhibit depicts local, state and national Civil Rights events through selected legislation, letters, reports, speeches and photographs. “Embracing Equality” will remain on display on the first floor of the Small Special Collections Library until March 1.

The accompanying video highlights King celebration events.

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