Each year, on the third Monday of January, the United States recognizes the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The city of Anderson also holds events in honor of King’s life and work.
AU has observed and celebrated MLK Day as an institution for many years, highlighting the intercultural education that the opportunity provides.
The Cultural Resource Center is home to Michael Thigpen and Linda Robertson, who have led planning for the school’s events on Jan. 15.
Wednesday, Dec. 13 marked the last meeting of the semester for AU’s MLK Jr. celebration planning committee.
Student leaders sat with community organizers and AU faculty to discuss preparations, coordinate changes in scheduling and update each other on areas of their responsibilities.
The theme of this year’s celebration is “A Day in 1960: Then, and Now What.” Using different experiential learning strategies and simulations, Thigpen says the goal of the events is to help students not feel shame in celebrating a life that fought for social justice.
“We want to encourage students to stand against social injustice and be able to identify microaggressions,” Thigpen says. “We hope to equip students with the tools to engage.”
Sophomore Bible and religion major, Elijah Neal, has worked to establish volunteering options for students as a part of MLK Day events. In talking with local Anderson non-profits, Neal arranged multiple service projects for AU students to get involved in the community.
Neal worked alongside Becca Palmer to coordinate with The Christian Center, Differently-Abled and Man4Man Ministries. Each service project will have room for around 20 students.
The committee discussed plans to set up for the events on campus, as participants will be led through Miller Chapel, Reardon Auditorium, Decker Hall and Nicholson Library, as well as coordinating with the city of Anderson on the day’s events at the Paramount Theatre.
K’Mia Clarett, a student success coordinator at AU, is on the city MLK Day board responsible for program organizing. “I’m excited because AU has had more of a partnership with the city,” she says, “we don’t want two separate events.”
Events will begin at 11 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 15 in Miller Chapel. Reverend Ragen Mitchell of Sherman Street Church of God will set the tone for the day by leading the Miller Chapel service.
The service led by Mitchell is called “The Gathering,” which will be held in the likeness of a civil rights rally in the 1960s. Writings of Dr. King will be read during the service, and a spoken word piece will be performed by AU senior Dominic Martin.
Martin’s spoken word piece is titled “A Letter from a Recovering White Moderate,” which was written as a response to Dr. King’s “A Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Martin first performed it in chapel last year, and he says he is honored to be asked to do it for MLK Day.
“In a time like this,” Martin says, “with the state that we as human beings are in and the crossroads we are at, to be asked to speak is an amazing and inspiring opportunity.”
“I really do believe that there needs to be change in order to improve,” Martin says. “I just hope that I can be an instrument for that change.”
From Miller Chapel, buses will be provided to the Paramount Theatre in downtown Anderson, where the city is holding its city-wide ceremony celebrating Dr. King.
“In the past AU only really presented the flags or had a speaker, but now there is more of a connecting factor,” Clarett says. “This year there is integrated programming, making this more of a partnership for the city celebration.”
The Paramount will host various guests and community leaders, including a feature with AU’s New Image Gospel Choir integrated with the Anderson community for a performance.
The first bus leaves at 11:30 a.m. and will continue every 15 minutes until 12:45 p.m., when the Peace and Justice March begins.
The march goes from the Paramount Theatre, across the Eisenhower Bridge to Reardon Auditorium, where a free lunch will be provided.
The main event of the day will be the simulation of the 1960s, “A Day in 1960: Then, and Now What.”
The simulation will put participants in the shoes of blacks and whites of that time and will explore the challenges people faced.
“I like to call it ‘intentional integration’,” says Thigpen.
There are two opportunities to experience the “A Day in 1960” simulation, the first from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and then again at 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
AU students can receive chapel credit for attending “The Gathering” and the simulation. Student ID cards will be scanned “in” at Miller Chapel at 11 a.m. and “out” at the end of either session of “A Day in 1960.”
On Monday night, there will be a showing of the film “Hidden Figures” in Reardon Auditorium at 7 p.m. This is also an opportunity for AU students to receive chapel credit.
The MLK Jr. celebrations at AU will continue into Tuesday, Jan. 16. Tuesday’s chapel will feature the Distinguished Gentlemen of Spoken Word, a poetry performance troupe of young African-American males.
Concluding the events is the beginning of the Peace and Conflict Transformation (PACT) lecture series on forgiveness and reconciliation. The first of four guest speakers will be at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 16.
The aim of these sessions will be to open conversations and to educate students on the realities of extremism and hate today.
“MLK was big about education,” Clarett says, “and this is a chance to bring the city together.”
On Sunday, Jan. 14, beginning at 5 p.m., students can volunteer to assist the CRC in preparing for the MLK Jr. celebration. The prayer labyrinth in Nicholson Library will be set up on Monday, Jan. 15 at 9 a.m. Those who are interested can contact Linda Robertson at firstname.lastname@example.org