Community Martin Luther King Celebration to Highlight ‘Taking a Stand’

Events honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. will be held from Jan. 15 through Jan. 29.

While the holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. falls on Jan. 20 this year, the University of Virginia and local community organizations will hold a variety of observances during the latter half of the month, exploring ideas and issues that are part of the slain civil rights pioneer’s legacy.

“This year’s events are wide-ranging, but all point to the common theme of ‘taking a stand’ to really ensure that the values we envision for our community and our country come to life,” Kevin G. McDonald, UVA’s vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, said.

“Too often, King is remembered for his integrationist dream, even though many of his later speeches and writings reveal a different vision: restructuring American society to ‘save the soul of a nation’ and create one society where people of many different backgrounds and faiths really live together,” McDonald said. “It is not easy work, but we have a long way to go toward realizing this vision and must persevere.”

UVA schools, departments and units are partnering with many local community groups to present events on Grounds and in Charlottesville venues that will highlight the lives of civil rights leaders, feature contemporary activists discussing their efforts, and challenge people to uncover their own biases. Several performances will showcase the uplifting power of black gospel music.

See the complete calendar here. Events include:

35th Annual Community Celebration and Worship Service
Jan. 26, 5 p.m., Martin Luther King Jr. Performing Arts Center 

Rev. Harry Blake of Shreveport, Louisiana, is this year’s guest speaker. Blake, former pastor of the Mt. Canaan Missionary Baptist Church, worked with King, helping to plan civil rights protests and other events.

The celebration will also include the popular MLK Community Choir that brings people together every year.

Keynote speaker: author and cultural critic Roxane Gay 
Jan. 23, 6:30 p.m., Paramount Theater

(Note: The free tickets have all been reserved, but any unclaimed tickets will be released at 6:20 p.m. at the door to those in the stand-by line.)

Among many other works, Roxane Gay has published two books – a novel, “An Untamed State,” and memoir, “Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body,” as well as a best-selling essay collection, “Bad Feminist,” and “Hear to Slay,” a black feminist podcast covering politics and popular culture.

Black Youth in the Climate Movement
Jan. 18, 5 p.m., Carver Recreation Center

Swedish teen Greta Thunberg is not the only young activist pushing the world to address climate change. In the U.S., young people of color are also taking a stand on environmental justice. They will share their experiences in a panel discussion featuring Isra Hirsi, co-founder of U.S. Youth Climate Strike; Vic Barrett, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, Juliana v. United States, which argues that the government violated youth rights by allowing activities that contribute to pollution and significantly harming their right to life and liberty; and Kaylah Brathwaite with Zero Hour, a national group of youth leaders advocating for more actions to address climate change.

Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do
Jan. 21, 5 p.m., Caplin Pavilion, UVA School of Law 

Jennifer Eberhardt, a social psychologist at Stanford University and 2014 MacArthur “genius” grant recipient, has been researching how people’s perceptions of race influence everyday interactions. She will discuss her 2019 book, “Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do.” 

Sponsored by the Center for the Study of Race and Law at UVA’s School of Law, the event will include Law Dean Risa Goluboff presenting the 2020 Gregory H. Swanson Award. Named after the first black student to attend UVA and the Law School, the award recognizes a student who shows commitment to justice.

Walk in My Shoes Experience
Jan. 22 and 23, Newcomb Hall Main Lounge, third floor

For the 2020 Community MLK Celebration, UVA students, faculty and administrators have a special opportunity to walk in the shoes of another member of the University community. The “Walk in My Shoes Experience,” which takes about 20 minutes, presents an immersive adventure that aims to make participants more receptive, informed and better advocates for diversity on and off Grounds.

School of Nursing alumna and nurse practitioner Dallas Ducar, a transgender woman who earned her undergraduate and two master’s degrees at UVA, advised a national group, Playground of Empathy, that developed the experience. The “Walk in My Shoes Experience” has toured at Massachusetts General Hospital (where Ducar now works in the Transgender Health Program), Harvard University, Charlottesville Pride 2019, and will go on tour nationally this year. 

Sign up is required here and then participants go to the third floor of Newcomb Hall at scheduled times. 

Fourth Annual MLK Gospel Explosion: John P. Kee and New Life Community Choir’s ‘I Made It Out’ Tour
Jan. 25, 6 p.m., Old Cabell Hall

Throughout the 44-year history of UVA’s Office of African American Affairs, black gospel music has been a consistent form of celebration of the black experience at the University. For the last few years, in partnership with many units across the University, the office has hosted a “Black Gospel Explosion” during the University’s Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.

Singer John P. Kee has earned accolades as a top-ranked gospel performer and pastor of the New Life Fellowship Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. He overcame a troubled life of drugs and crime, emerging in the late 1980s as a powerful vocalist and minister.

Taking a Stand Showcase
Jan. 27, 7 p.m., Newcomb Hall Theater

Join UVA’s Multicultural Student Center and the Hoos for Inclusive Sexual Education group for a gathering that features marginalized voices, perspectives and artwork. Hoos for Inclusive Sexual Education will also provide information about its “Paint Away the Hate” campaign.

FACTUALITY: A 90-Minute Crash Course on Structural Inequality in America
Jan. 28, 3 p.m., Harrison-Small Auditorium 

The University Library and Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights will present the game FACTUALITY, a facilitated dialogue and board game in which participants take on the role of one of a diverse group of characters who encounters limitations or advantages based on race, sexual orientation, faith or gender.

Media Contact

Anne E. Bromley

University News Associate Office of University Communications