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Cedar Rapids, Mt. Vernon events will celebrate Martin Luther King’s vision, but also address continuing divisions


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during a press conference in 1964. — photo via the U.S. Library of Congress

Each year, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day offers a chance to not just celebrate the accomplishments and spirit of a great American leader, but also to examine the ways in which society still falls short of King’s vision. Among the events and activities honoring King on Monday are the 28th annual celebration at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Cedar Rapids, and conferences at Coe College and Mount Vernon High School.

28th Annual Celebration at St. Paul’s

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (1340 3rd Ave SE, Cedar Rapids) — Monday, Jan 15 at 4 p.m.

The celebration at St. Paul’s is a collaboration with Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church. This year, it will include a panel discussion starting at 4 p.m. called Speaking Up and Speaking Out: Challenging Systemic Racism in Cedar Rapids — a focus that is at the heart of the rest of the evening as well. The panel will be moderated by Anne Harris Carter, and will include panelists Jasmine Almoayed, Rod Dooley, Betty Kiboko, Brian Pingel and Dr. Ruth White.

“We felt like that would be a timely discussion to be having. It’s also a move away from abstraction, to see where there are elements of racism that are impacting our lives here in Cedar Rapids” said St. Paul’s Associate Pastor Jonathan Heifner. “It’s important that we not only hear Dr. King’s ‘Dream’ speech again and again, but that we reckon with it and challenge ourselves to learn from it.”

Following the panel, attendees can join together for a free will-donation meal and a keynote address delivered by Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker.

“It is an honor to be given the opportunity to speak to the legacy of Dr. King,” Walker said in a press release. “Dr. King stands as a titan in the pantheon of great visionary leaders. He was able to move the conscience of a nation; standing up for what he knew was right at a time when the majority of the country thought otherwise. Now more than ever, we must remember his commitment to progress and be encouraged, knowing that our current fight against injustice and inequity can be won.”

Capping off the St. Paul’s event will be the announcement of the recipient of the annual Dr. Percy and Lileah Harris “Who Is My Neighbor” Award, which is given to someone who works diligently for justice in Linn County.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. marches alongside leaders of the March on Washington in 1963. — photo via the U.S. Library of Congress

It won’t be the only event Walker will speak at throughout the day. He will also deliver the keynote address at the inaugural Mount Vernon High School Connect, Absorb, Respond, and Empower (CARE) Conference and at Cedar Rapids’ Coe College — which is hosting a march and celebration of King as well as a Diversity Conference.

The CARE (Connect. Absorb. Respond. Empower) Conference

Mount Vernon High School (731 Palisades Rd SW) — Monday, Jan. 15, 2018 at 8:30 a.m.

The inaugural CARE Conference will kick off at 8:30 a.m. with a keynote address by Walker, followed by a number of breakout sessions led by community leaders and activists and a final closing session scheduled to end at 3:15 p.m.

The breakout sessions range from a spoken word performance to discussions about immigration, civil rights, hip hop as a tool for change and the impact of childhood trauma.

March and Celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.

Coe College (Gage Memorial Union, Cedar Rapids) — Monday, Jan. 15 at 9 a.m.

Diversity Conference

Coe College (Hickok Hall, Cedar Rapids) — Monday, Jan. 15 at 1 p.m.

At Coe, the events, which are free and open to the public, will begin with a symbolic march from Phifer Commons in upper Gage Memorial Union to the Kesler Lecture Hall in Hickok Hall, where a series of short remembrances will be presented along will a video and gospel music.

The Diversity Conference will begin at 1 p.m., with a series of breakout sessions on topics including becoming a better ally and understanding implicit bias. The conference will conclude with a keynote address by Walker at 3:15 p.m.


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