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Martin Luther King Jr. Remembrance event to be held virtually Jan. 17

| Denise Olson

Photo caption: Since 2018, students at UW-Eau Claire have had an additional resource and study center to call home — the Black Cultural Center in Room 1931 of Centennial Hall. Many have called it "an affirming place" for gathering, studying and community building.

The annual Eau Claire community celebration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will take place virtually, streamed by Pablo Center at the Confluence at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 17.

“I think to start the year honoring Dr. King, his message of nonviolence and looking at who we want to be is an important way to set the tone for this community,” says Dr. Selika Ducksworth-Lawton, a professor of history at UW-Eau Claire and an organizer of the MLK event.

“People want to make their communities better. They want to make sure everybody is treated fairly, equally and with respect. If we can start with that, we can bridge differences, especially artificial differences that are meant to divide us.”

With the health and safety of all participants at the forefront in planning, Pablo Center staff, along with the university and partnering entities once again have planned a virtually delivered event that can be most widely and safely enjoyed by all.

“In an effort to present an event with meaningful community conversation and artistic experiences, we have elected to hold the Martin Luther King Jr. Remembrance Day for the Chippewa Valley event in a virtual format,” says Pablo Center marketing manager Becca Hinderliter.

“Delivered through the Perigon streaming platform in HD sound and video, audiences can expect a quality virtual event that commemorates the life and work of Dr. King through a variety of entertaining live music performances and impactful spoken-word pieces,” Hinderliter says.

One of those spoken-word pieces will be delivered by B.J. Hollars, an associate professor of English at UW-Eau Claire. Hollars’ 2018 book, titled “The Road South,” recounts his personal journey retracing the routes of the historic Freedom Rides and holding conversations with as many of the heroic riders as he could meet.

“While researching my book in Montgomery in 2016, I had a fortuitous meeting with Dr. King’s former neighbor, Dr. Valda Montgomery,” Hollars says. “While at their family home, the landmark Harris House, I enjoyed a conversation on the porch with Valda’s 93-year-old mother, Vera Harris, sitting on the very swing she once shared with Dr. King himself.”

Hollars will offer his thoughts on how that and other personal accounts help to humanize Dr. King, reminding us that he was, after all, “just a neighbor too, and that we are all capable of greatness in our own way.”

An essential element of this annual King remembrance event is music, and live performances will be offered by Twin Cities-based artists Irie Sol and Samantha Moon, along with Dr. Frank Watkins, an associate professor of music and director of choral studies at UW-Eau Claire.

“It is impossible to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. and not highlight the importance of music to the civil rights movement,” Watkins says. “All major movements for social change have been fueled by musicians and artists who used their craft to stand for change.”

The Jan. 17 event is a collaboration among King Remembrance Program for Eau Claire, Uniting Bridges of Eau Claire, Pablo Center, Converge Radio and UW-Eau Claire.

Be a part of the program by submitting a video. Event organizers ask community members to submit one-minute videos of themselves discussing equality and how they plan to honor King’s message. The videos will be part of Monday’s program. Email your video to Dr. Ducksworth-Lawton at

Register here to stream the event.

The on-campus MLK Celebration is set for Wednesday, Feb. 2, also to be held virtually. Details to follow on the UW-Eau Claire website.