• MLK events honor legacy, celebrate diversity

    UChicago reflects on civil rights and engages in community action through a series of MLK events

This year’s Martin Luther King Commemoration Celebration event brought history to the university. On Thursday, January 17, 2013, the University hosted Judy Richardson, civil rights activist, author and documentary filmmaker, in a conversation with Charles Payne, Frank P. Hixon Distinguished Service Professor in the School of Social Service Administration.

“This year’s MLK Commemoration Celebration gave the University and surrounding community the opportunity to hear from Judy Richardson, a civil rights leader who marched not only alongside of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but also documented the many leaders of the Civil Rights Movement who worked tirelessly for the rights we enjoy today," said Ronnie Rios, Chair of the MLK Committee and Senior Associate Director of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs.

There were more than 600 people who attended the MLK Commemoration Celebration event, and more than 600 who watched the webcast.  During the annual celebration, Richardson, who is best known for her work on the Academy Award nominated 14-hour PBS series, Eyes on the Prize, discussed her involvement with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), one of the civil rights organizations during the civil rights movement of the 1960s; how she memorialized the movement; and her work to publicize the efforts of movement participants who were lesser known.

In preparation of the event, Campus and Student Life Program and Service Areas held many screenings and discussions of Eyes on the Prize, both on and off campus, including at Rockefeller Chapel, 5710 Woodlawn, and a screenings at International House and by UCSC at Sunshine Gospel Ministries, a youth development nonprofit in the Woodlawn community. There were also 15 screenings held by communities within the House System.

A reception organized by the Office of the Reynolds Club and Student Activities (ORCSA) followed the MLK Commemoration Celebration event and included performances by the UC Brass Ensemble; PhiNix Dance Crew, an RSO that performs hip-hop dance; and the Koong, a Registered Student Organization that performs traditional Korean percussion music. Jonathan Lykes, alum of the College and current graduate student in the School of Social Service Administration, also performed.

There were several other efforts that took place as part of this year’s MLK celebration, including a social media campaign by the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, which encouraged the University to take and post photos of what they stood for via Instagram, and a day of service, which helped to highlight the importance of community action.

On Saturday, January 19, approximately 200 students participated in the University’s MLK Day of Service, an event organized so that students could serve their neighbors and communities in honor of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The event, which was sponsored by the University Community Service Center (UCSC), paired students with 14 community-based organizations working in the areas of education, housing, poverty relief, and community development.

 “This year’s event went exceptionally well. We worked really hard to create an event that welcomed students interests and questions, but also challenged their perceptions,” said Crystal Coats, Community Service Advisor for the UCSC. “Those who participated had the opportunity to support the community and to connect with individuals who are at the forefront of these issues. We’re really excited to see the connections, conversations and opportunities that come out of this event.”

Students participating in the MLK Day of Service performed a broad range of activities, including removing graffiti, cleaning, organizing and painting spaces, sorting medical equipment for distribution by an outreach organization, conducting set up for a food pantry, stuffing mailers, and preparing donations for the homeless. Their work contributed to ongoing efforts by organizations such as Corazón a Corazón, a non-profit that provides the Latino community in South Chicago with services such as one-on-one ESL tutoring, or the Metropolitan Tenants Organization, which works to educate, organize and empower tenants to have a voice in the decisions that affect their housing.

“The students’ contribution to our work will reduce the number of days to review and approve a Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) application by 10 days,” said Loren Simmons, Chief Performance Officer for YWCA Metropolitan Chicago. “This is not only of value to our clients who need consistent childcare, but also to our childcare providers who are operating small businesses and the YWCA, as we often struggle with balancing contractual expectations with available resources.”

Students worked at sites located across the city of Chicago, in communities such as Englewood, South Shore, Back of the Yards, and Lincoln Park. The attendees also participated in a lunch session, where they conversed about their work, the needs of the community and community action with 11 community leaders.

So many students signed up for the event that UCSC doubled the participation from last year, and is already thinking about how to expand capacity next year. UCSC Director Amy Chan points out that students do not have to wait to sign up next year to volunteer. UCSC hosts days of service regularly and can help to pair students with volunteer opportunities throughout the academic year. For more information on the University Community Service Center and how you can serve your community visit the UCSC website.

Visit the MLK website to learn more about the annual MLK Commemoration Celebration and associated events.