By Estela Hernandez, public relations and events specialist, University of Utah Office for Equity and Diversity
The University of Utah presents its 32nd annual celebration of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Jan. 18-23. Legendary rapper and activist Talib Kweli will deliver the week’s keynote address, Jan. 21, at noon in the Union Ballroom, where he will discuss his personal experiences as an activist through music and the importance of continued engagement by today’s youth.
The year’s theme “Activism: Now it’s our Turn” focuses on youth activism and strategies employed in current social movements. Topics include the use and effectiveness of activism through social media, art, demonstration, acts of solidarity and ally work.
“Like so many social movements in the past, young people have been at the center of driving social change,” said Neelam Chand, chair for the 2016 MLK committee and communication director for the Office for Equity and Diversity. “With technological advances and the use of social media, activism today has changed over time. All of this year’s events are geared toward exploring the many complex topics and critiques around contemporary social actions through the lens of youth activism.”
MLK Week activities at the University of Utah:
March and Rally
Jan. 18, 2:30 p.m., East High School auditorium, 840 S. 1300 East
March to Kingsbury Hall at 3:15 p.m.
The University of Utah and the greater Salt Lake community celebrate and commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and activism at the eighth annual U MLK Celebration March and Rally. The event begins with a rally at East High school featuring spoken word and poetry performances by students and alumni from Salt Lake Community College, Weber State University, Westminster University and the University of Utah. The 1.2-mile march will end at the steps of Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah campus.
A Conversation with Mia McKenzie: “Black Girl Dangerous”
‘Connecting to You’ MLK Celebration Event
Jan. 20, 7:30-9 a.m., Orson Spencer Hall, Hinckley Institute of Politics (Room 253), 260 Central Campus Drive
Two speakers will present about how society today is following in the path of Martin Luther King Jr. Armando Solorzano, an associate professor in the U’s Department of Family and Consumer Studies, will speak about Latinos in Utah and discuss his own experiences in the state. Ronald Coleman, an associate professor in the U’s Department of History and Ethnic Studies, will also discuss how Martin Luther King Jr.’s journey is visible in other’s experiences in Utah. A Q&A session will follow the lectures.
Spoken Word Performance by Truth Cypher
Jan. 20, noon-1 p.m., Olpin Student Union Building, East Ballroom, 200 Central Campus Drive
Truth Cypher is a collective of local artists, scholars, educators and community members that promotes the advancement of critical literacy, art and activism in the community. Through their partnership with Glendale Middle School, Truth Cypher works to address community issues and to stimulate creative modes of self-expression, resistance, cultural knowledge and other practices that are often undermined and invalidated in mainstream society. Truth Cypher will perform a few spoken word pieces along with local students.
Keynote Address: “Activism | Now it’s our Turn” by Talib Kweli
Jan. 21, noon-1:30 p.m., Olpin Student Union Building, Ballroom, 200 Central Campus Drive
Talib Kweli is a Brooklyn-based rapper who earned his stripes as one of the most lyrically gifted, socially aware and politically insightful rappers to emerge in the last 20 years. Kweli is known worldwide as a genre-straddling musician, but also for being an activist with something significant to say. Kweli has participated in movements such as Occupy Wall Street, Dream Defenders, and more recently, the Black Lives Matter movement. Kweli uses his talent to bring attention to issues of social justice, but also as a tool for concrete change, often offering benefit shows. During his keynote address, Kweli will talk about his use of multiple forms of activism and the importance for today’s youth to be engaged in activism as it pertains to racism, sexism and social justice.
Campus and Community Panel Discussion: “Standing in Solidarity?”
Jan. 22, noon-1 p.m., Orson Spencer Hall, Hinckley Institute of Politics (Room 253), 260 Central Campus Drive
Irene Ota, diversity coordinator and instructor for the College of Social Work at the U, will facilitate a discussion about the meaning of solidarity as it pertains to movements of racial and social justice. Panelists include Kilo Zamora, local community organizer and social change facilitator; U media arts student Gabriella Huggins who works with Spy Hop Productions; and U graduate student and community activist Jem Locquiao.
Day of Service
Jan 23, 8:45 a.m., Olpin Student Union Building, Bennion Community Center (Room 101), 200 Central Campus Drive
The U’s Bennion Community Service Center is sponsoring a day of service in conjunction with a variety of local organizations, including First Step House, Utah Food Bank, YMCA and more. Volunteers should preregister and arrive to their sites for check-in, breakfast and explanation of the project by 8:45 a.m. Registrations will be offered onsite at the Bennion Center from 8:15-8:45 a.m.
All events are free and open to the public. For more information on weeklong events, visit diversity.utah.edu/mlk.