Area educational institutions partner to bring Melissa Harris-Perry as keynote speaker during MLK event

38th annual event to commemorate life, legacy of King is sponsored by Davenport, GRCC, GVSU

Author and educator Melissa Harris-Perry will be the keynote speaker at the West Michigan community event that commemorates the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Harris-Perry will speak at 6 p.m. on January 15 at the 38th annual community celebration at Fountain Street Church, 24 Fountain St. NE in Grand Rapids. The event is free and open to the public.

A longstanding partnership among Davenport University, Grand Rapids Community College and Grand Valley State University makes it possible for Harris-Perry to visit West Michigan for the community event and two other presentations.

Harris-Perry is the Maya Angelou Presidential Chair at Wake Forest University in the Department of Politics and International Affairs, the Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and the Program in Environment and Sustainability.

She is the founder and president of the Anna Julia Cooper Center, whose mission is to advance justice through intersectional scholarship and action. Harris-Perry is the author of the award-winning books “Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought” and “Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes and Black Women in America.”

Davenport President Richard J. Pappas said: “It gives me hope that despite our societal struggles that could discourage us, we come together as a community and commit publicly to be inclusive and embrace diversity. We find strength in our joint mission to keep fighting injustice and magnifying what we know to be good and what we hear in Dr. King’s timeless message.”

GVSU President Philomena V. Mantella said she is grateful to leaders at Davenport and GRCC for their continued commitment to bringing a national speaker to Grand Rapids to give insight and relevance to King’s messages.

“At a time when our world is filled with violence and conflict, it’s more important than ever to reflect on and be inspired by the life and lessons of Dr. King,” Mantella said. “Higher education plays an important role in developing inclusivity and equality and we’re honored to partner with GRCC and Davenport on this important event.”

GRCC President Charles Lepper said as the country celebrates King’s life and legacy, he “encourages our community to reflect on how we can work together to create a more just and equitable society.”

“By joining forces, we have the power to cultivate a profound sense of belonging and establish an inclusive, hospitable, and respectful environment not only within our campuses but also across the globe,” Lepper said.

Community sponsors for the January 15 event at Fountain Street Church include the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, Corewell Health, Foster Swift, Mercantile Bank, and Warner Norcross and Judd.

Harris-Perry will speak at Davenport University on January 16 in the W. A. Lettinga campus auditorium. The winners of Davenport’s MLK Day essay contest will also be announced. The celebration will conclude with a silent march.


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