Although Lawrence University classes won’t be held Jan. 18 on the holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., more than 300 students will make it “a day on, not a day off” by engaging in 18 community service projects.
Lawrentians will spend part of their day volunteering their time and talents on activities ranging from painting a rock climbing wall at Appleton’s Edison Elementary School to leading interactive projects that incorporate themes of equality, advocacy and the civil rights movement at the Boys and Girls Club of the Fox Valley.
Highlighting the day will be the community celebration of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King at 6:30 p.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. The annual commemoration of King’s life and legacy is jointly presented by Lawrence University and the community organization Celebrate Diversity Fox Cities, with the support of The Post-Crescent, numerous Fox Valley organizations, churches and individuals.
Stansbury Theatre in the adjacent Music-Drama Center will be equipped with a video screen to accommodate overflow crowd should the Chapel reach capacity. The event is free and open to the public and a sign language interpreter will be present.
The theme for this year’s celebration is “Breaking the Chains of Injustice.” Social justice icon, scholar and author Dr. Angela Davis will deliver the event’s keynote address.
As a student, writer, scholar and activist/organizer, Davis has devoted much of her life to social justice movements domestically and internationally. Most recently, the Birmingham, Ala., native has focused largely on social problems associated with incarceration and the generalized criminalization of those communities that are most affected by poverty and racial discrimination.
“I am looking forward to hearing Dr. Davis’ call to action for our community at the annual celebration,” said Kathy Flores, the diversity coordinator for the City of Appleton and chairperson of the MLK planning committee. “Many people forget what a radical Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was considered in his time on this earth. I am confident that Dr. Davis will inspire and challenge us to remember and embrace the true legacy of Dr. King.”
In 1970, Davis was placed on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted List.” She spent 18 months in jail and on trial before being acquitted by a jury. Davis has drawn on those experiences as an author of 10 books, including 2005’s “Abolition Democracy” and 2003’s “Are Prisons Obsolete?” in which she argues for “decarceration.”
Her just released book, “Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine and the Foundations of a Movement,” is a collection of essays, speeches and interviews highlighting the relationships among historical and contemporary state violence and oppression in the world. It will be used as the next installment in the Fox Cities’ Books Build Community series.
Davis, who studied at Brandeis University and the Sobornne in Paris, has spent the past 15 years at the University of California, Santa Cruz where she is Distinguished Professor Emerita of History of Consciousness and of Feminist Studies.
Her career as an educator and scholar has seen Davis teach at San Francisco State University, Mills College, University of California Berkeley, Vassar College and Stanford University, among others.
“I am confident that Dr. Davis will inspire and challenge us to remember and embrace the true legacy of Dr. King.”
— Kathy Flores, Appleton diversity coordinator
The community celebration also will recognize Tony Awofeso with the annual Jane LaChapelle McCarty Community Leader Award and Ben Vogel with the MLK Educator Award.
A former Outagamie County Board Supervisor, Awofeso is the current president of B.A.B.E.S., Inc., a child abuse prevention program, and former chair of the organization Towards Community: Unity In Diversity (the precursor to Celebrate Diversity Fox Cities). He co-founded African Heritage, Inc. and has served on the boards of the North East Wisconsin Fair Housing Council and CAP Services.
Vogel is the assistant superintendent of school/student services for the Appleton Area School District. He has been an advocate on social injustice issues pervading the school and community cultures with a focus on closing the opportunity gap between African American K-12 and white K-12 students.
Four local students winners of the annual MLK essay contest — Eliana Brenn, Sydni Wanty, Ndemazea Fonkem and Michayla Kading — will read their winning entries as part of the celebration.
The celebration will include music by Anthony Gonzalez, Lawrence student B-Lilly, members of the Lawrence Black Student Union and a spoken word performance by members of Lawrence’s Slam Poetry Club.
About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College” and Fiske’s Guide to Colleges 2016. Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.