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Virtual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration set for Feb. 2

| Denise Olson (story); Jesse Yang (video)

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will host the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 2. As was the case in 2021, this signature celebration will take place virtually, inviting campus and community members to safely take part in honoring and elevating King’s life and legacy. 

Co-hosted by the division of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Student Affairs and the Office of Multicultural Affairs, this online gathering will allow students and the campus community to mark the occasion of Martin Luther King Jr. Day through song, visuals and spoken word.

The program will be introduced by Dr. Stacey Jackson, assistant professor of psychology and women's, gender and sexuality studies, and a counselor in UW-Eau Claire’s Counseling Services.

“Every year I look forward to taking time to remember and honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” Jackson says. “In the challenging times we currently face, Dr. King’s messages of love and hope are needed more than ever. It is important for our institution to take this time to reflect on his work as we think critically about how to create more diverse, equitable and inclusive spaces on campus and in the Eau Claire community. As attendees are moved by the words of our speakers and the musical selections throughout this program, I hope they will also be inspired to take action.”

Delivering the keynote presentation will be Oyango A. Snell, an attorney with vast legal experience in both corporate and government affairs. Snell currently serves as CEO and executive director of the California Lawyers Association, and previously worked as general counsel to multiple global energy companies, advising them on matters of climate, antitrust, labor and employment.

Snell, who completed his undergraduate degree at the historically Black Central State University in Ohio, has dedicated much of his career to issues of equity, diversity and matters of social justice.

The MLK Celebration also marks the annual presentation of the UW-Eau Claire Martin Luther King Jr. Social Justice Leadership Award. Each year, EDISA honors one faculty or staff member who has “demonstrated an exceptional ability to advocate for underserved and underrepresented groups, and who has led, organized and engaged the community in the difficult work of EDI through their voice, vision and actions.”

Last year’s recipient, Dr. Selika Ducksworth-Lawton, professor of history, will present the 2022 MLK Social Justice Leadership Award to Dang Yang, the most recent director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA). Yang, a Blugold alumnus, served for more than three years in the director position, working to enhance academic and personal success for Blugold students of color at UW-Eau Claire. Earlier this month, Yang accepted an EDI leadership role with Marshfield Clinic.

Ducksworth-Lawton says Yang was a "go-to guy" in time of crisis and will be missed at UW-Eau Claire.

"He is brilliant, organized and has the kind of judgment that engenders trust," Ducksworth-Lawton says. 

Dr. Kong Pheng Pha, assistant professor of women's, gender and sexuality studies, has been proud to work alongside Yang on many EDI initiatives, including the critical Hmong studies certificate program.

“Dang Yang has always inspired me to work harder to support our students, especially those who have been historically marginalized and underrepresented in higher education,” Pha says. “His leadership as OMA director has strengthened the ways we understand and practice equity, diversity and inclusion on campus and in the Eau Claire community.”

The fifth annual UW-Eau Claire Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration can be viewed live at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 2, at