Celebrating Martin Luther King Day

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It’s the news everyone’s been talking about: on Monday, January 21, all classes will be canceled in honor of Martin Luther King Day. An opportunity to relax and stay at home is certainly enticing to the many Northwestern students accustomed to a busy schedule. But before you start queuing up new Netflix shows for the day off, consider using this time to participate in Northwestern’s annual Day of Service instead. Students will gather at 12:30 PM for a brunch in Norris before departing for their sites at 1:30 PM. This year, students will have their choice between visiting Cradles to Crayons, Ebenezer AME Church, or Youth and Opportunity United (Y.O.U.). Students at Y.O.U. and Ebenezer AME Church will return to campus by 4:30 PM, while students at Cradles to Crayons will return at 5:30 PM. All participants must register in advance by completing the MLK Day of Service google form.

Later in the evening, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity will host a candlelight vigil in the Alice Millar Chapel from 7:00- 9:00 PM. The event will include a keynote address from Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., an entrepreneur, educator, and civil rights leader, as well as musical performances by Northwestern student groups. This event and the following reception are open to the public and will provide a peaceful ending to the holiday. 

Even after the official holiday has ended, there will continue to be many opportunities for learning throughout the rest of week. On Friday, January 25, artist and educator Benji Hart will join leaders from Black and Pink and the Chicago Community Bond Fund in giving students a presentation on some of the problems in the criminal justice system. The presentation will be held at 5:00 PM in the McCormick auditorium of Norris, with a reception following the event.  


Some students have already been preparing for the Martin Luther King Day celebrations. Senior Chloe Fourte wrote an original play entitled “Freedom Leaves,” a story about “Dom, a young African American who finds themselves trapped in the afterlife.” The play will be performed for the first time in McCormick auditorium on Sunday, January 20. Other students have spent their time developing Arts Fest, an event sponsored both by the Leadership Development and Community Engagement and Vertigo Productions, a student theatre organization. Held on Saturday, January 26, Arts Fest will consist of three parts: a slam poetry event, a reception catered by Urban Tables, and a series of 10-minute plays about racial justice. 

Wrapping up the week will be a keynote address delivered by author Maggie Anderson on Monday, January 28. In 2009, Anderson and her family committed to only shopping at black-owned businesses for a full year, and her experiences inspired her to write a book and found The Empowerment Experiment. In this keynote, Anderson will share her findings and their implications for the black community. The doors of Pick-Staiger auditorium will open at 5:30 PM, and the address will begin at 6:00 PM. 

Regardless of whether you attend every event, or only make it to one, Martin Luther King Day is a great chance for students to pair service with education, learning more about current civil rights issues while also volunteering in the community. For a full overview of all Martin Luther King Day events, visit the MLK webpage