MLK Day at the UO will provide 'Lessons for the Flock'

Martin Luther King Jr. illustration

“A King’s Company: Lessons for the Flock” is this year’s theme for Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the UO, and campus members are encouraged to reconnect with each other and work together toward an ongoing commitment to social justice.

A full day of events is planned for Thursday, Jan. 14, as well as free COVID-19 testing throughout the day to show support for a healthy and safe community. Preregistration is required for testing.

A UO MLK virtual program will premiere at 11 a.m. on the UO YouTube channel with a live chat. The virtual program and chat will be facilitated by Lesley-Anne Pittard, assistant vice president for campus and community engagement.

The program will feature a Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration from Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Yvette Alex-Assensoh and “inspirational and motivational” remarks from UO President Michael Schill and Damien Pitts, academic adviser and diversity initiatives specialist in the Lundquist College of Business.

The program also includes Andiel Brown, director of the UO Gospel Choirs and Ensembles in the School of Music and Dance, performing the Black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Also on tap are musical tributes by assistant professor of flute Jackie Cordova Arrington and School of Music and Dance scholar Natalie North.

A morning meditation will be provided by Rabbi Meir Goldstein, senior Jewish educator at Oregon Hillel. After the premier, the program will be available for viewing any time via the UO’s YouTube channel. The link to the premier will be available on the Division of Equity and Inclusion MLK page.

Pittard described the rationale and need for this year’s theme and activities.

“We have not come together as a campus since March 2020,” she said. “The pandemic, wildfires, social unrest and the election of 2020 have been our historic, painful and divisive local and global backdrop. Our intention on this MLK Day is to have a day on and not a day off, or as our masks say, MLK is every day.”

Campuswide virtual “Courageous Conversations” will begin at 1 p.m. According to Pittard, the sessions are “intended to be spaces for civility, connection, respectful listening and authenticity.” Sessions will be facilitated by campus diversity committees and members of the President’s Diversity Advisory Community Council.  Conversations are open to all campus members.

Pittard said the conversations will help people connect across campus and work as a community in ways they don’t always have the opportunity to do. After an initial welcome, there will be four session breakout rooms:

  • Living: You are directly affected by social and racial justice based upon your identity.
  • Leading: You are coordinating agendas and organizing members of your department, community or organization to respond to social and racial justice.
  • Leaning: You have gained new awareness about social and racial justice and are clarifying your own role or intention.
  • Listening: You are now learning about social and racial justice and gaining new awareness.

“These are not listening sessions but platforms for action, connection and insight,” Pittard said. “We know there is a lot happening across campus in various schools and units, but we do not often have an opportunity to strategically connect across functional areas and align our actions, best practices and solutions.” Pre-registration is required.

The Jan. 14 activities will conclude with a socially distanced screening of “Black Panther,” hosted by Ducks After Dark and the Multicultural Center. The film will begin at 7:30 p.m. EMU Ballroom and Redwood Auditorium. There is limited capacity with masks required and social distancing rules enforced; preregistration is required.

Other campus and community events and activities are planned for later in the week and on the official federal Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, Jan. 18.

The Holden Center for Leadership and Community Engagement will offer virtual service projects Jan. 18 from 1 to 3 p.m. The event will begin with discussion on how other marginalized identities and experiences intersect with racial justice and how to use one’s voice to be of service and work towards equity.

Participants will then be separated into small groups for virtual service projects with some opportunities to continue the projects throughout winter term. Pre-registration is required.

The UO is also one of many sponsors and participants in the NAACP/Eugene-Springfield and city of Eugene events Jan. 18. One event is a drive-through community rally with waving dignitaries, swag and prizes. The rally will take place from 9 to 10:30 a.m. and will start at Lane County Youth Services’ John Serbu Campus and end at Autzen stadium.

The Jan. 18 MLK Day virtual program will begin at 11 a.m. with presentations by NAACP/Eugene-Springfield, UO leaders, UO and LCC student athletes, and local, state and national dignitaries. Musical and dance performances will be offered, along with a presentation of the Eugene MLK Community Human Rights award. For more details see the NAACP website.

On Jan. 19, Nikkita Oliver will give a BE Justice presentation as part of the Erb Memorial Union BE Series. Oliver is a Seattle-based creative, community organizer, abolitionist, educator and attorney.

She is the co-executive director of Creative Justice, an arts-based alternative to incarceration and a healing-engaged, youth-led, community-based program. The event takes place from 6 to 7 p.m. and is free and open to all.

More information on UO and community events can be found on the Division of Equity and Inclusion website.

—By tova stabin, University Communications