For the last 37 years, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day has been observed on the third Monday of every January in honor of Dr. King’s birthday. This is a day to celebrate his life and legacy and to remember him as the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism during the Civil Rights Movement, which protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
Dr. King was born on January 15, 1929. His efforts in using nonviolent means to protest and bring social justice and change to racial segregation in the United States earned him the award for the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1964. He was assassinated in 1968, and efforts to create a national holiday honoring MLK began soon after. The first nationwide observance for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day occurred in 1986.
On January 16 and 17, Davenport celebrated the life and legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The 37th annual commemoration was held at Fountain Street Church where Dr. Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. gave the keynote speech focusing on the event’s theme of “Race and Democracy”. Dr. Glaude is one of the country’s most prominent scholars, a James S. McDonnell distinguished university professor and chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University. He is also an author, political commentator, public intellectual, and passionate educator who examines the complex dynamics of the American experience.
Dr. Richard Pappas and Dr. Eddie Gladue, Jr. also spoke to the Davenport community on January 17 at the university’s MLK celebration and silent march event. The winners of the annual MLK Day essay contest were also recognized during this time. First place was Melissa Smith, a senior marketing major who attends Davenport through the Lansing and Global campus, and second place was Belle Bajric, a sophomore majoring in business at the W.A. Lettinga campus in Grand Rapids.
Dr. Gladue’s keynote speech evoked an urgency and longing for change. It takes courage to speak up and do the right thing, much like Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but it is crucial for communities to do so and stand together as they fight injustice.