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Emory celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Week with virtual events
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Emory’s King Week is a series of programs to honor the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement. Photo by Dick DeMarsico. Public domain as part of the New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection.

— Library of Congress

On April 5, 1957, 28-year-old Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at Dexter Street Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, to keep the congregation encouraged in the aftermath of a successful bus boycott. He talked about the liberation of the Gold Coast from the British empire, noting the importance of looking to history in order to move forward. One of his most memorable quotes comes from this speech.

King stated, “The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community. The aftermath of nonviolence is redemption. The aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliation.”

It is in the spirit of beloved community that Emory University celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a week of virtual events, including lectures, panel discussions and worship services. These virtual events are open to the entire Emory community and focus on the importance of building bridges, not barriers.

“King preached beloved community and that is at the core of our justice, equity, diversity and inclusion work,” says Carol Henderson, Emory’s chief diversity officer, vice provost for diversity and inclusion and one of the King Week coordinating co-chairs. “If our mission is to create, preserve, teach and apply knowledge in the service of humanity, King focused on the health and well-being of humanity. To get there, King also preached about truth, racial healing and transformation. The King Week celebration focuses on that truth.”

Virtual programs will take place Jan. 15-22, with most events on Jan. 18.

The Department of African American Studies will host its annual keynote on Jan. 18 at 4 p.m. This year, Bobby Seale, founding chairman of the Black Panther Party, will address attendees. King’s philosophy of nonviolence and the Black Panther Party’s “by any means necessary” mantra have been pitted against each other throughout history, but Seale’s keynote will connect the dots between the two.

Bobby Seale

Bobby Seale, founding chair of the Black Panther Party, gives the King Week keynote address Jan. 18 at 4 p.m.

“We chose Bobby Seale because we believe his iconic and dynamic legacy of community activism for social change can help us understand Martin Luther King's continued fight for political inclusion alongside his evolving commitment to economic justice,” says Jessica Lynn Stewart, an assistant professor in the Department of African American Studies. “As someone who has studied the political economy of Black Power ideology in my own work, having the opportunity to moderate a conversation with the co-founder of the Black Panther Party will for sure be a highlight of my career.”

Also on Jan. 18, the School of Law will host a virtual panel discussion and film screening of the documentary “Ali’s Comeback: The Untold Story” at 7 p.m. The film focuses on Muhammad Ali’s first boxing match three years after he was banned from the sport for speaking out against the Vietnam War.

Following the screening, there will be a panel discussion featuring the film’s director, Art Jones, as well as Muhammad Ali’s widow, Khalilah Ali; Sam Massell, former mayor of Atlanta; former Atlanta mayor and U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young; Robert Kassel, an Emory College and Emory Law graduate who helped Ali return to boxing; Atlanta City Council member Michael Julian Bond; Bunnie Jackson-Ransom, president and CEO of firstClass Inc.; and others. Emory Law professor Robert Parrish will moderate the discussion. Those who register for the discussion will receive a code to watch the film in advance.

At 7:30 p.m. that evening, as a part of the Oxford campus celebration, Rev. Kim Jackson will be the guest speaker. Jackson graduated from Candler School of Theology in 2009 and is currently the vicar for the Episcopal Church of the Common Ground, a ministry that serves unhoused people in downtown Atlanta. She is also Georgia state senator for district 41.

The events of King Week will also continue into February, which is Black History Month. On Tuesday, Feb. 22, Darren Hutchinson, professor of law and Emory’s inaugural John Lewis Chair for Civil Rights and Social Justice, will deliver the 2022 Emory Law Martin Luther King Jr. Day lecture. Civil rights and social justice are the central foci of Hutchinson’s research, teaching, administrative work and community engagement. Hutchinson’s lecture, ““Anti-Antiracism: Fighting Backlash, Building Justice” is set for 5 p.m. and is currently planned to be both virtual and in-person in Tull Auditorium.

King Week Schedule

8 a.m.–12 p.m.: Middle School and High School Debate Tournament Volunteer Judging, Atlanta Urban Debate League

For event details and Zoom links, visit Emory King Week.

11 a.m.: King Sunday Worship Service with Professor Walter Fluker

For event details and Zoom links, visit Emory King Week.

4 p.m.: Keynote address by Bobby Seale: “Fighting for Civil and Economic Justice: A Conversation with the Founding Chairman of the Black Panther Party”

6 p.m.: King Week dialogue: “What Is Your Life’s Blueprint?”

7 p.m.: Screening and panel discussion: “Ali’s Comeback: The Untold Story”

7:30 p.m.: Oxford College celebration with Rev. Kim Jackson 09T

For event details and Zoom links, visit Emory King Week.

4-5:30 p.m.: MLK Community Service Awards Ceremony with professor Andra Gillespie, director of Emory’s James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study of Race and Difference

For event details and Zoom links, visit Emory King Week.

5 p.m.: School of Law Annual MLK Jr. Day Lecture—“Anti-Antiracism: Fighting Backlash, Building Justice” with professor Darren Hutchinson. Online and in-person at Tull Auditorium.

For event details and Zoom links, visit Emory King Week.

With these and other events, organizers hope that King's legacy will inspire the campus community to find their place in the effort toward equity and justice. In that same speech at Dexter Street Baptist Church, King pointed out, “freedom never comes on a silver platter...It never comes with ease. It comes only through the hardness and persistence of life.”

Emory has a long history of student activism, and after the global racial justice demonstrations of 2020, the King Week celebration aims to encourage everyone to keep going, as King did for the people in Montgomery 65 years ago.

“It’s exciting that Dr. King was a college student in the city of Atlanta and caught a vision of profound change that needed to happen in society,” says Greg McGonigle, university chaplain, dean of spiritual and religious life, and one of the King Week coordinating co-chairs. “Everyone knows justice work is challenging and long-term. How do people sustain themselves for the ongoing work of changemaking? I hope it’s a week that inspires our students to find their own place in that as Dr. King did.”