MLK Initiative Will Host Commemorative Events

The Initiative, a partnership between various University and community organizations, aims to carry on King’s work through its series of public events.

By Cindy Yao

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Initiative will be hosting a series of events to celebrate and advance King’s legacy, leading up to the 50th anniversary of his assassination on April 4, 2018.  

The MLK Initiative is a collaborative project between various University and community partners. Partners include the Civil Knowledge Project in the Office of Civic Engagement, a program that helps foster and strengthen connections with neighboring South Side communities, Rainbow PUSH, an organization formed by Reverend Jesse L. Jackson Sr. that defends civil rights, and Liberty Baptist Church. 

According to Bart Schultz, executive director of the Civic Knowledge Project, Rainbow PUSH urged the Civic Knowledge Project and others interested to help it honor King’s legacy in 2018. 

A major goal of the initiative is not just to reflect on King’s life, but also to carry his work forward. “People tend to think too limitedly [of King’s historic significance] in terms of a national holiday or an anniversary, when really the cause is so much bigger,” Schultz said.  

The MLK Initiative launched November 4 last year with an open house at the Civic Knowledge Project’s Edelstone Center atrium to introduce the project. The event had a good turnout, specifically among students, according to Schultz. Following its launch, the MLK Initiative participated in other events, including UChicago’s recent 28th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, which featured journalist Dorothy Butler Gilliam.  

In the coming months, the MLK Initiative will host events almost every Saturday, involving discussions and panels showcasing the importance of King’s legacy from historical and modern perspectives. Upcoming events include a discussion entitled “What Dr. King Means to Me,” with Reverend Michael L. Pfleger and a screening and discussion of King-themed works from the South Side Home Movie Project.  

On April 4, the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination, the MLK Initiative will host a special ceremony at Rockefeller Chapel, featuring a carillon concert of music that played an important part during the civil rights movement. The concert will be followed by a conversation led by Timuel D. Black (A.M. ’54), an activist in Chicago’s civil rights movement who helped bring King to Rockefeller Chapel in 1956 to deliver his first major speech in Chicago. Black will reflect on the day King died.  

All MLK Initiative events are free and open to the public.  

“We hope that the events this year will facilitate engagement and help people figure out how to connect, get involved, and make a difference on these matters,” Schultz said.