Martin Luther King Jr. Day, observed annually on the third Monday of January, celebrates the birth of the legendary Baptist minister and nonviolent leader of the civil rights movement. This year, the holiday takes place on King’s actual birthday, Jan. 15, but celebrations in the Lansing area aren’t contained to just one day. From the annual Day of Celebration luncheon, featuring a very special keynote speaker, to concerts, a commemorative march and an ecumenical service, plus much more, residents of Greater Lansing can rest assured that there’s no shortage of ways to honor this hero of American history.
A Lansing tradition for 39 years, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Mid-Michigan will host its annual Day of Celebration luncheon 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday (Jan. 15) at the Lansing Center. This year’s theme is “the measure of a country’s greatness is its ability to retain compassion in times of crisis,” a quote by Thurgood Marshall, the first Black justice of the United States Supreme Court.
Ruby Bridges, who at 6 years old was the first Black student to be integrated into an all-white school in the South in 1960 — and was greeted by a mob of hostile protesters, requiring a guard of federal marshals for the rest of the school year — will headline the luncheon. She’ll deliver an informal fireside chat, drawing on decades of experience as a civil rights advocate, author and speaker to address civil rights and race-related issues, underlining the importance of history “as both a cornerstone and a source of truth,” the commission wrote in a press release.
“Ruby Bridges’ story will inspire and educate the audience about the importance of courage, resilience and the pursuit of equality,” said Elaine Hardy, commission chair. “The commission is elated to host Ms. Bridges, a living link to the past, to share a firsthand account of the challenges faced during the civil rights movement. Her personal journey is a testament to the impact that individuals can have in challenging systemic injustice.”
The commission has paused ticket sales, but those interested in attending can contact Fonda Brewer at (517) 410-2998 for additional table and ticket information.
Michigan State University has a full week of free events planned, with highlights including a health and wellness fair 8 p.m. to midnight Saturday (Jan. 13) at IM Sports East, featuring a pop-up roller skating rink with free skate rentals as well as wellness activity stations, information tables and workshops; a MLK Holiday Ecumenical Service 1:30 p.m. Sunday (Jan. 14) at the MSU Chapel, which includes a variety of faith-based performances and will be followed by a soul food tasting; the annual “Jazz: Spirituals, Prayer and Protest” concert 3 p.m. Sunday at the Fairchild Theatre; the annual MLK Commemorative March 9 a.m. Monday, which starts at Beaumont Tower and finishes across the street from the site of the MSU Multicultural Center; and the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Unity Dinner 5:30 p.m. Tuesday (Jan. 16) at the Kellogg Center, featuring a keynote speech by Blaire Morseau, a citizen of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians and an assistant professor in the Department of Religious Studies. For a full list of events, visit inclusion.msu.edu.
Finally, Carl Clendenning, a bass vocalist and keyboardist who recently retired from his more than 37-year tenure as director of music at Detroit’s Gesu Catholic Church, will perform an evening of spirituals 7 p.m. Monday at the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Charlotte. The concert aims to honor the lasting significance of spirituals, which began as a way for enslaved people to communicate with each other and continue to be integral in Black culture and music today. The concert is free, and additional information can be found at micharlotte.org/events/an-evening-of-spirituals/.
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