A discussion of race

Michigan Tech celebrates MLK Day

Monday, Jan. 21, is Martin Luther King Junior Day. The national holiday celebrates the life and achievements of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK), a prominent twentieth century civil rights activist. The holiday commemorates his birthday on Jan. 15, but is traditionally celebrated on the third Monday in January. 

“A big thing he fought for was economic equality. He was planning a big movement called ‘The Poor People’s Campaign’ when he was assassinated,” said Kellie Raffaelli, the director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion at Michigan Technological University (MTU). 

MTU has been a center for community MLK Day celebrations for 30 years and is continuing the tradition this year. The event has grown from a candlelight vigil across campus to a day of talks, banquettes and volunteering. The biggest aspect of MLK Day volunteering by MTU students, who get the day off of classes for the celebration, is educating local elementary school students about MLK’s life and legacy – something that now happens at Houghton, Hancock, and Dollar Bay schools. 

While that volunteering aspect is limited to MTU students, the community is invited to participate in a number of other events. 

“Let’s Talk About Race” is a panel discussion that will be held on Sunday, Jan. 20, at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Hancock. The event is free and no ticket is required. Panel members are Ramon Fonkoue, Miguel Levy, Kari Henquinet, Marie Richards, David Holden and Logan McMillan 

“MLK Day celebrations started at Tech 30 years ago [in part] because of the Pastor who was here,” said Good Shepherd Pastor Bucky Beach. “I became aware of the anniversary and decided that I wanted to do something special.” 

The discussion is the largest that Good Shepherd has hosted separate from Cooperative Campus Ministries and in conjunction with the MLK Day events. Following the panel discussion will be an opportunity for interested members to join an ongoing reading and discussion of the book, “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo. 

“The book allows mostly white people to talk about racism,” said Beach. “It’s trying not to ask mostly people of color to be experts on racism.” 

Monday, Jan. 21, at 5:30 p.m. the 30th annual MLK Day Banquet will be held in the Memorial Union Building Ballroom. The event will include food, presentations by the National Society of Black Engineers, and a keynote speech by life coach Donzell Dixson. The event is free but registration is required due to limited space. 

The following day at 6 p.m. another panel discussion titled “Fearlessly Facing Fear” will take place in the MUB Alumni Lounge. This event is also free and open to the public. The event is part of the “Speak It Tour” presented by Donzell Dixson, Donte Curtis, and Elijah Kondeh. 

For more information about events, or to register, visit “Michigan Tech Center for Diversity and Inclusion” on Facebook or visitmtu.edu/events.