January 16, 2015

Observance honors Martin Luther King Jr.

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Observance 2015” commemorates and honors the life and legacy of the civil rights leader who won the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize. 

Special activities are set for Sunday, Jan. 18, through Wed., Jan. 21, on the Southern Illinois University Carbondale campus and in the city of Carbondale. 

Campus events include the presentation, “Why Ferguson Can’t Wait: Teach the System to Change the System,” by guest speaker Justin Hansford.  Hansford, an attorney, assistant professor, and former White House staff member, will speak at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the SIU School of Law Hiram H. Lesar Building Auditorium. 

Hansford holds a bachelor’s degree from Howard University and earned his law degree at Georgetown University Law Center in 2007. At Georgetown, he founded “The Georgetown Journal of Law and Modern Critical Race Perspectives.” An assistant professor at St. Louis University School of Law, he assisted in founding Image Southeast Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. 

He was a staff member with the Obama for America presidential campaign and worked in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel. The National Bar Association named him one of the “Top 40 Lawyers Under 40” and he has been heavily involved in civil rights activities in Ferguson, even accompanying the family of Michael Brown to testify before the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. 

The observance begins Sunday, Jan. 18, with a Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration.  It kicks off with refreshments at 3:30 p.m. at the Carbondale Civic Center. The 4 p.m. program, free and open to the public, features a community choir, readings from King’s speeches by students from SIU and area schools, praise dance and the presentation of the Spirit of Dr. King Award. 

A donation collection will benefit Gum Drops, a non-profit organization serving meals to children in Southern Illinois. Anyone interested in joining the community choir should plan to attend a rehearsal at 10 a.m. Saturday at Rock Hill Church, 219 E. Monroe St., in Carbondale. 

The annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Breakfast takes place on Monday in the Student Center’s Ballroom D with Randy Dunn, SIU president, as the keynote speaker.  “Rejoice, Reclaim, Renew Community” is the theme of the Carbondale Branch of the NAACP event. 

Breakfast will be served from 8 to 9 a.m. and the program begins at 9. Local youths will also play a prominent role in the event that features presentations by the Praise Central Church Youth Choir and poetry from members of the Carbondale Boys and Girls Club.  Local students will read their winning essays from the 33rd annual King Essay Contest as well as introduce Dunn and lead the audience in the King Litany. Honor roll students will receive the King Academic Excellence Award as well. 

Tickets are $5 each and available in advance or at the door. 

There will be an SIU faculty panel discussion, “The Making of Ferguson,” from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 20, in the John C. Guyon Auditorium at Morris Library.  Various faculty will discuss the circumstances that led up to what has transpired in recent months in Ferguson, Mo. 

For more information about the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Observance 2015, contact SIU’s Center for Inclusive Excellence at 618/453-3740.