The Power of Grassroots Movements

By Neelam Chand, marketing and communications director for the Office for Equity and Diversity

The Office for Equity and Diversity at the University of Utah is proud to present its 35th annual celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jan. 19-24.

For several years since the civil rights movement and beyond, young leaders have worked together to challenge political agendas, fight for justice and organize community activism. Today is no different. When we think about local action, young leaders have taken a grassroots approach to organize communities and mobilize initiatives.

This year’s MLK week is a call to action for people across our campus to engage in grassroots movements and communities that promote social change. It’s a prompt to identify the issues that not only impact us individually but to take a look at the issues that impact our surrounding communities—and then to do something about it.

A series of posters found around campus share quotes from thought-leading activists. These quotes serve as a reminder that a collective approach is vital for social change.

The week’s keynote is Charlene Carruthers, a queer feminist, community organizer and writer. Carruthers will lead a discussion on the power of grassroots movements, youth leadership development work, ways to strategize activism and build community solidarity.

“The committee’s goal this year is focused on engaging our students with community and grassroots movements. Each event is designed to provide tangible ways for our campus community to rally together and make positive change.”

—Estela Hernandez, chair for the 2019 MLK planning committee and event specialist for the Office for Equity and Diversity

All MLK Week events are free and open to the public. For more information, visit diversity.utah.edu/events/mlk. Activities for the week include:

MLK Day of Service
Jan. 19 |
 8:45 a.m.
Bennion Community Center (Room 101), Olpin Student Union Building, 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 For the Kids, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Crossroads Urban Center, Ronald McDonald House and more. Volunteers can pre-register and arrive to their sites for check-in, breakfast and explanation of the project by 8:30 a.m.

Rally and March
Jan. 21 | 2:30 p.m.
East High School auditorium, 840 S. 1300 E.
March to Kingsbury Hall at 3:15 p.m. (1375 Presidents Circle)

The 11th annual MLK Celebration Rally and March is one of the largest demonstrations on MLK Day in Utah. The rally and march is a way for youth, educators, businesses, organizations, religious groups and the greater community to come together and march in solidarity for equality. Each step marched between East High School and Kingsbury Hall is a reminder of the teachings and the impact of Dr. King and many other civil rights activists.

Keynote Address by Charlene Carruthers: “Make an Active Choice to Engage”
Jan. 23 | 12-1:30 p.m.

Olpin Student Union Building, Ballroom, 200 Central Campus Drive

Charlene Carruthers is a strategist, author and a leading organizer in today’s black liberation movement. As the founding national director of BYP100 (Black Youth Project 100), she has worked alongside hundreds of young black activists to build a national member-led organization of black 18-35-year-olds dedicated to creating justice and freedom for all black people. Her passion for developing young leaders to build capacity within marginalized communities has led her to work on immigrant rights, economic justice and civil rights campaigns nationwide. She has led grassroots and digital strategy campaigns for national organizations, including the Center for Community Change, the Women’s Media Center, ColorOfChange.org and National People’s Action, as well as being a member of a historic delegation of young activists in Palestine in 2015 to build solidarity between black and Palestinian liberation movements.

Carruthers has been covered in several national publications and is also recognized as one of the top 10 most influential African Americans by “The Root 100,” one of Ebony Magazine’s “Woke 100,” an “Emerging Power Player” in Chicago Magazine and is the 2017 recipient of the YWCA’s Dr. Dorothy I. Height Award.

Campus and Community Panel Discussion: “The Power of a Ballot”
Jan. 24 | 12-1 p.m.
Hinckley Institute of Politics (Room 2055), Carolyn and Kem Gardner Commons Building, 200 Central Campus Drive

Voting is one of the most powerful tools for social change, but when it comes to marginalized communities, access to a ballot can be both a challenge and an obstacle. In certain areas around the nation, strategies and tactics are used to keep particular communities from voting and influencing the political climate. “The Power of a Ballot” is a conversation that will explore how communities are forced to relinquish their power to vote by being kept out of the voting booths. Panelist will also discuss the many ways that individuals can engage in civic duties and combat injustices.