VALPARAISO | A weeklong celebration of the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. will kick off Thursday under the theme The Beloved Community and continue through Jan. 23 at Valparaiso University and several other locations around the city.
The activities around the Jan. 20 Martin Luther King Day observance will be highlighted by the special commemoration of the 50th anniversary of King's "I Have a Dream" speech. This will include a recitation of the speech by more than 20 people during a convocation at the VU Chapel of the Resurrection.
Most of the activities will be hosted by Valparaiso University starting with a display of artwork by students from more than 50 area schools. The works will be displayed at the Harre Union prior to an awards ceremony and reception for winning artists from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, during which the local folk band Shades of Gray will perform.
From noon to 1 p.m. Friday, community conversations focusing on excerpts from King's "Letters from a Birmingham Jail" will be held at eight locations around the county, including the Lutheran Deaconess Association offices and the Pines Village Retirement Community.
The city will host its own reflections on the "Letters" at 9 a.m. Jan. 20 at City Hall with Mayor Jon Costas. The public is invited to join city employees for the 20-minute observance.
Also on Friday, the first half of the documentary "Half the Sky," based on the book by Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas D. Kristof about the oppression of women worldwide, will be shown from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Harre Union Ballroom. WuDunn will introduce the film and, following the showing of the second half of the film from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, will conduct a live Q & A from New York City.
Friday's activities will conclude with a Student Coffee House exhibition of dancers, musicians and vocalists beginning at 7 p.m. in the Harre Union Ballroom.
Pastor James Wetzstein will preach at the MLK Global Communion Service to be held at 10 a.m. Jan. 19 at Chapel of the Resurrection. The chapel will again be the venue for the Martin Luther King Day convocation, which will begin at 10 a.m. Jan. 20 and include the reading of the "I Have a Dream" speech.
Among the readers will be a group of students from Valparaiso's Central and Parkview Elementary schools, Thomas Jefferson Middle School and Valparaiso High. Others will be students and instructors of several nationalities from VU, representatives of Ivy Tech Community College and the Northwest Indiana Urban League and, the final reader, the Rev. Mike Cobbler, of Union Community Church.
The keynote speaker for the convocation will be the Rev. John Nunes, the chairman and former president and CEO of Lutheran World Relief. VU President Mark Heckler will present the Martin Luther King Jr. Award to Stacy Hoult-Saros, associate professor of foreign languages and literature, for her work furthering King's vision of multiculturalism. After the service, a tree blessing will be held in the MLK Arboretum.
Following the convocation, a luncheon will be held in the Harre Union ballrooms beginning at 11:45 a.m. and featuring the Nigerian dance troupe Umuada Ure. Tickets for the luncheon are $12.50 at the Harre Union welcome desk.
The afternoon of Martin Luther King Jr. Day will offer about 35 discussion sessions highlighting The Beloved Community theme at locations throughout the campus. A complete list of the session topics, presenters, times and places can be found at valpo.edu/mlk/sessions.
The day's activities will conclude with a program at 4 p.m. at the VU Center for the Arts with a new presentation "Multi Meets Poly: Multiculturalism and Polyculturalism Go on a First Date" by Silk Road Rising, written by founding artistic director Jamil Khoury.
The VU Law School will host several of the day's activities and will hold its annual "Talk to a Lawyer" from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 20. Also, VU Law School graduate Amelia Chizwala Petersen will present a commemorative talk at 2:30 p.m. Both activities will be at Wesemann Hall.
The law school will hold an MLK Mock Debate at 6 p.m. Jan. 22 focusing on the so-called "Stand Your Ground Law" that was the focus of the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida. On Jan. 23, William E. Nelson, of New York University Law School, will be the MLK Day speaker at the VU Law School.
All events, except the luncheon, are free, and all are open to the public. For the full schedule of activities or other information, visit valpo.edu/mlk or call Elizabeth Gingerich at (219) 464-5044.