On-campus Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration set for Jan. 31

| Julie Poquette

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will host a campus-community celebration of the vision and legacy of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. during the opening week of its spring 2018 semester.

The UW-Eau Claire Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration is open to the public and will begin at 5 p.m. Jan. 31 in Schofield Auditorium. Parking will be available in “F” or “S” stalls in any university lot.

The event also will be streamed via Facebook Live from the UW-Eau Claire Facebook account.

Held two weeks following the official Martin Luther King Jr. Day and on the eve of Black History Month, the celebration will allow community members, along with students, faculty and staff — many who’ve just returned to campus for the new semester — to commemorate the influential black civil rights leader and consider how best to continue work toward his goals for inclusion and equality, said Michael Thomas, coordinator of the event and a student services coordinator in UW-Eau Claire’s Office of Multicultural Affairs.

“This program is in response to a specific request from a number of African American students who wanted a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration that was sponsored on campus upon their return following the semester break," said Dr. Tamara Johnson, UW-Eau Claire's assistant chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion. "Given the significance of such programs, it was important that we made this a priority and I’m excited to see it happening.”

Sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Black Student Alliance, the celebration will include a keynote address, remarks from university leaders, music led and performed by UW-Eau Claire students, and readings of King’s works.

The event also will include the presentation of the university’s first Martin Luther King Jr. Social Justice Leadership Award to Dr. David Leaman, dean of UW-Eau Claire’s College of Arts and Sciences.


Travis Adams

Travis Adams, an attorney in Little Rock, Arkansas, and a former member of a civil litigation execution team in the Arkansas attorney general’s office, will present the keynote address. Adams, an Arkansas native, grew up in a predominantly black community with pockets of high poverty. Without a father figure in his life but with the support of family and other key individuals, he earned a full college scholarship and has succeeded in launching a career in public service, "with a focus on improving inequality and poverty in the lives of people in every walk of life, especially in my community," he writes in a biographical statement.

As part of his work on the Arkansas attorney general’s team, Adams led the review of racial-profiling policies for the Arkansas State Police. He received his law degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Arkansas. As an undergraduate at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Adams was a McNair scholar and a first-place speaker at the International Public Debate Association's national tournament.

UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt and Dr. Tamara Johnson, assistant chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion, also will speak during the event, and Collis McCloud Jr., a senior business management major, will read from one of King’s well-known speeches.

UW-Eau Claire’s Concert Choir will perform under the direction of Dr. Frank Watkins, assistant professor of music, and Elijah Vanderpoel, a sophomore vocal performance major, will perform a vocal solo. Lorance Uwinaza, a freshman business major, will lead those in attendance in singing “We Shall Overcome.”

“It is our hope that participants will leave the program re-energized about Dr. King’s vision for civil rights and equality, and by how his work not only resonates with today’s social justice movements and the university’s commitment to student success, but also how it aligns with UW-Eau Claire’s current programs and services supporting campuswide equity, diversity and inclusion,” Thomas said.

Top photo credit: Photo by New York World-Telegram & Sun staff photographer Walter Albertin, June 8, 1964. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/99404325/.