MLK Day events shine light on past, present social justice issues

University specific and citywide events recognized the accomplishments of Martin Luther King Jr. and encouraged modern day activism.

Motivational speaker Gwendolyn Elizabeth Boyd will deliver a keynote address at the annual MU Celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. event Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Missouri Theatre.

Boyd’s speech will center on the importance of women and people of color representation in STEM fields. Tickets are free and can be redeemed on the Eventbrite website.

The theme of this year’s event is STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) at Midnight: King’s Vision for Science in the Social Order and draws upon one of King’s lesser known speeches “A Knock at Midnight.” According to the event’s Facebook page, the speech “examined the possibilities and limitations of science as a tool for advancing the beloved community.”

The event is co-hosted by MU, the Division of Inclusion, Diversity & Equity, the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center, the Women’s Center, the Department of Black Studies, the LGBTQ Resource Center and MizzouEd Bridge.

Keynote speaker Boyd became the first African American woman to earn a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Yale. Additionally, in 2009 Boyd was nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the US Senate to serve as a trustee for the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence Foundation. Then, in 2014 Boyd returned to her undergraduate alma mater, Alabama State University, to serve as the institution’s first female president.

After Boyd’s keynote address, the MLK Planning Committee will recognize this year’s recipient of the MLK Award, City of Refuge, at the committee’s annual Unity Benefit Concert at 7 p.m. on Jan. 25 at the Missouri United Methodist Church. The award honors individuals or groups who make significant contributions to the race relations, social justice and human rights fields and uphold King’s legacy.

Patrons are encouraged to bring donations to the free concert, co-hosted by Choral Arts Alliance of Missouri, with all of the money raised going towards City of Refuge.

In addition, on Jan. 20 the MU Chapter of the Black Law Students and MU Law co-hosted a screening and roundtable discussion of the film “Just Mercy” at Regal Columbia & RPX.

Also on that day, the Columbia NAACP held their annual celebration that began at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial at Battle Garden, then continued with a motorcade to Second Missionary Baptist Church. Mayor Brian Treece and First Ward City Councilman Clyde Ruffin were both in attendance to speak on the importance of unity.

Faculty, students and community members are all encouraged to visit the replica of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Ellis Library as a reminder of King’s numerous accomplishments.

Edited by Leah Glasser |

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