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Martin Luther King Jr. holiday activities encourage service, celebration

January 12, 2016 By Susannah Brooks
Martin Luther King Jr. addresses a crowd from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where he delivered his famous, “I Have a Dream,” speech during the Aug. 28, 1963, march on Washington, D.C.

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses a crowd from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where he delivered his famous, “I Have a Dream,” speech during the Aug. 28, 1963, march on Washington, D.C. Wikimedia Commons

Events taking place on and off of the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus encourage participants to collaborate and celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Ernest Green, one of the “Little Rock Nine” students who integrated Central High School following the Brown v. Board of Education decision, will present a keynote speech Monday night at the City-County Observance, the capstone event for the holiday.

Green, who later served as assistant secretary of labor for employment and training during the Carter administration, received the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian honor, for his bravery during integration efforts in 1957.

Many UW–Madison staff members have had a role in planning these events, year after year: serving on committees, assisting at the community meals or singing in the choir during the City-County Observance. Gloria Hawkins, director of the Chancellor’s and Powers-Knapp Scholarship Programs, is a member of the King Coalition, which coordinates many of the events during this busy weekend.

“There are so many opportunities for members of the UW–Madison community, and their friends and family, to participate in these events,” says Hawkins. “These activities are inclusive and within the true spirit of working collaboratively to address justice for all people in a nonviolent way.”

On Friday, Jan. 15, the celebrations begin with the 29th Annual Free Community Dinner, honoring Dr. King’s message of brotherhood and sisterhood. More than 500 people are expected to attend. The event takes place on the second floor of the Gordon Dining and Event Center, 770 W. Dayton St., from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Free shuttle service to and from the dinner will be available; routes and times will be posted on Facebook.

On Monday, Jan. 18, the holiday begins with a free day of science and service held from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery (Discovery Building), 330 N. Orchard St. Any Dane County middle or high school student can participate, registering individually, as a group or as a family.

Youth Service Day, a popular option for several years, encourages participants to learn how advances in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) have benefited humankind. Students will interact through career workshops and exploration stations in the morning, followed by community service projects in the afternoon.

To learn more or sign up, visit the Urban League’s website. Presenters and volunteer mentors (undergraduate and up) are also encouraged to sign up and take part.

The event is held in partnership with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Coalition, the Urban League of Greater Madison, UW–Madison and the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.

Madison’s 31st annual City-County Observance takes place at the Overture Center for the Arts, 201 State St. The celebration begins with a Freedom Songs Sing-In, from 5 to 5:30 p.m. in the center’s Rotunda.

The City-County Observance itself takes place from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Capitol Theater, featuring keynote speaker Ernest Green. The observance will also feature presentation of the Madison-Dane County Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award by Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and Madison Mayor Paul Soglin.

All singers wishing to participate in the MLK Community Choir, led by noted musician Leotha Stanley, are welcome to join without registration or audition. Before performing at the City-County observance, participants should attend two rehearsals: Tuesday, Jan. 12, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Jan. 16, at 11 a.m. at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, 2019 Fisher St.

Other events include the Women in Focus Scholarship Ball at Monona Terrace on Saturday, Jan. 16, at 6 p.m., the Urban League’s Outstanding Young Person Breakfast at Edgewood High School on Sunday, Jan. 17 (doors open at 7:30 a.m.), and an ecumenical church service on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. at SS Morris AME Church.

Madison Metro buses will follow alternate schedules on Monday, Jan. 18. Campus routes 80 and 84 follow weekday recess schedules, while most major city routes follow Saturday schedules. In addition, all standing paratransit rides are canceled. Maps of all bus detours and updated bus schedules are available online. For more information, contact Metro at 608-266-4466 or by email.