Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Observance Week

2015 0bservance week

Dear Colleagues:

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Observance Week Planning Committee is pleased to announce events for the 2015 celebration. Every year's observance has its own unique character. This year we are thinking about the disproportionate use of lethal force by police officers against black male youth and the widespread pain and unrest it has triggered, both on our campus and across the nation. We also are very concerned about the acrimony that has erupted in the wake of President Obama's executive order on immigration reform. Just yesterday I was meeting with one of our December graduates who started out as "undocumented," then she was able to get a driver's license, and now she has a fantastic job with a Fortune 500 company. We have so many of these deserving students that the president's plea for empathy, understanding and humanitarianism as hallmarks of "the American way…" deeply touches and resonates with us. We also know there are many men and women who are still deployed a long way from home, engaged in the ceaseless battle against terrorism, radicalized Islam and unbridled imperialism. With all of this in mind and hope undaunted, we have chosen as our theme for the 2015 observance week, "Growing a Soul for Social Justice."

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Our celebration will begin Thursday, Jan. 22, with a film screening sponsored by the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art. The film is "Spies of Mississippi." It chronicles the extensive effort by the state of Mississippi to undermine the civil rights movement. The film will be shown at 7 p.m. and promises to be very educational. Come to the Beach Museum for this excellent program, which is free and open to the public.

On Monday, Jan. 26, our celebration continues with the MLK Diversity Tea on the K-State Salina campus. The event features an interview with the cast of "Clybourne Park," a satire set in 1959 about community leaders who stop the sale of a home to a black family. We're pleased to have the MLK Diversity Tea at K-State Salina and welcome the cast of "Clybourne Park" as part of our Observance Week events. 

On Tuesday, Jan. 27, the College of Agriculture will sponsor its 11th annual Diversity Student Leaders Program at 12:30 p.m. in the Cottonwood Room at the K-State Student Union. The speaker will be Rodney Patterson, director of corporate diversity and talent management officer for CoBank. Mr. Patterson will tell his story and share the principles that have guided his life's journey. We are so grateful to the College of Agriculture for this long-standing program targeting student leaders.

At 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, the Commerce Bank Presidential Awards Reception will be at the K-State Alumni Center. This year's awardees are Justine Floyd, senior in agribusiness, and Bryon Williams, assistant director of admissions. We really encourage the entire campus community to attend this reception and honor these individuals who have done so much to advance K-State diversity, contribute to the success of historically underrepresented students, and to promote inclusive excellence. We also are grateful to Tom Giller and Commerce Bank for their support of these awards for 36 years.

On Wednesday, Jan. 28, the College of Business Administration will host its 16th annual Diversity Lecture. This year's speaker will be Eric Butler, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Union Pacific. Mr. Butler will speak at 10:30 a.m. in Forum Hall at the Union. We are very pleased to have this Union Pacific representative on our campus, and we highly commend the College of Business Administration for 16 years of outstanding diversity lectures.

Also on Wednesday, the College of Arts & Sciences will conduct a Teach-In from 1-4 p.m. in the Union courtyard. Faculty members from the college will lead table discussions and facilitate meaningful dialogues on the pressing social issues of today. Participants will be free to come and go as they please, as well as to sit in on as many different discussions as they wish. We applaud the College of Arts & Sciences for promoting civil discourse on difficult topics as one way to build cultural competence. Let us come together and talk to each other. 

Later Wednesday night, the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. will have its annual MLK Lecture and Candlelight Vigil, which will be followed by a hot chocolate social sponsored by the Staley School of Leadership Studies. The lecture will begin at 7 p.m. in the Union's Forum Hall. Robert Page will deliver the MLK Lecture on "Beyond Ferguson: His Legacy, His Dream." The Alpha's candlelight vigil is the oldest MLK observance program at K-State. Dr. King was an Alpha. 

At noon Thursday, Jan. 29, the MLK Fellowship Luncheon will take place in the Union Ballroom. The keynote speaker, Dr. G. Pritchy Smith, will address the topic of "Growing a Soul for Social Justice." Dr. Smith is co-founder of the National Association for Multicultural Education, or NAME, and professor emeritus of education at the University of North Florida. Dr. Smith has been a passionate supporter of diversity and inclusion long before the words became vogue. We are most fortunate to have the very wise and distinguished Dr. Smith with us on this day. This is a not-to-be-missed program.  

Luncheon attendees are encouraged to make their reservations early by filling out and submitting the reservation form at http://www.k-state.edu/diversity/2015MLKLunchReservation.htm by Jan. 23. This form asks for your name, department and contact information for billing.

On Friday, Jan. 30, the Black Faculty and Staff Alliance and Alianza will have a Social Justice Brown-bag Discussion. The two groups will discuss contemporary social justice issues and how they can work even better together to advance social justice on our campus. The event will take place from 12:30-1:45 p.m. in Staterooms 1 and 2 at the K-State Student Union. 

The week's observance will conclude on Friday afternoon with the Laying of the Wreaths Ceremony at the MLK Bust by Ahearn Field House at 2 p.m. We are grateful to the Office of the President, the Office of the Provost and Senior Vice President, the Asian American Student Union, the College of Agriculture/K-State Research and Extension, Career and Employment Services, the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Division of Human Capital Services for their wreath donations. We also are very pleased that Martha Smith Caldas of Alianza and Dr. Kimathi Choma of the Black Faculty and Staff Alliance will deliver the comments at the ceremony. The Laying of the Wreaths Ceremony is always very beautiful and it gives us a moment to pause at the end of an eventful week to reflect and recommit.

As you can imagine, many people have worked very hard to bring these events for the King celebration to the K-State campuses in Salina and Manhattan. The Planning Committee is especially grateful to all the loyal supporters of the observance week activities, to Commerce Bank, to all those providing wreaths, to Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., to the colleges for bringing in such outstanding speakers, to the Staley School of Leadership Studies, and to the Beach Museum for kicking off the observance week for the fourth straight year. Nothing would be happening without the leadership of Mirta Chavez and the tireless support of the staff in the Office of Diversity. We are very grateful to the Office of the President for providing funding to support our campuswide celebration.

We hope you will join us for as many events as possible — the film screening, the tea, the Commerce Bank Awards, the Teach-In, the lectures, the meals, the vigil and the ceremony of laying the wreaths. Let's make the 2015 MLK Observance Week a time of coming together and "Growing a Soul for Social Justice."

View and download the 2015 MLK Observance Week Poster and please pick up hard copies of the poster for display in your area.

Finally, thanks to all of you for all you have done to support and advance diversity at our beloved university. We are at an excellent place due to the collective efforts of you. Have a splendid break and may every good and wonderful thing find its way to you in 2015.

Myra Gordon, Ph.D.
Associate Provost for Diversity
224 Anderson Hall