Activities at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo College and across the broader Kalamazoo community are planned to honor slain civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., including a convocation, march, day of service, educational programs and presentations.

"Equity in Action Uniting Community" is the theme of this year's celebration which includes events throughout 2016 to honor the 53rd anniversary of King's visit to WMU in 1963. All events are free and open to the public.

Thursday, Jan. 14

The Courage to Create—Group Poetry Reading on Equity in Action

As Dr. Maya Angelou noted during reflections on her interactions with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "Courage is the most important of the virtues...because without it one cannot be consistently or insistently kind or generous or fair." The semifinalists of the annual "Courage to Create" Poetry Competition (grades 7-12) will perform poetry on the theme "Equity in Action" and will share their research on historical figures that have exemplified courage to create a just and equitable world. A reception for student-poets, K-12 teachers, local writers, competition judges and families will follow the event. Special guest orators (community leaders) will also perform poetry at the event.

  • Time: 4:30 to 7 p.m.
  • Location: WMU Multicultural Center, Adrian Trimpe Hall
  • Sponsors: WMU Center for the Humanities, WMU Office for the Vice President for Research and WMU Office of Diversity and Inclusion. 

Thursday through Sunday, Jan. 14-17

The Mountain Top

The play depicts a gripping re-imagination of the events the night before the assassination of the Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. On April 3, 1968 after delivering one of his most memorable speeches, an exhausted Dr. King returns to his room at the Lorraine Motel while a storm rages outside. When a maid arrives with some surprising news, King is forced to confront his destiny and his legacy to his people. The New York Times says that "Even before the first flash of lightning, and there will be plenty of that before the evening's end, an ominous electricity crackles through the opening moments of The Mountain Top."

  • Thursday through Saturday, Jan. 14-16 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 17 at 2 p.m.
  • Balch Festival Playhouse, Kalamazoo College
  • Kalamazoo College Balch Festival Playhouse and Face Off Theatre Company

Friday, Jan. 15

Community Reflection

  • 11 a.m.
  • Stetson Chapel
  • Kalamazoo College students, faculty, staff and administrators

Monday, Jan. 18

City of Kalamazoo Communitywide Day of Service

  • 8 a.m., City Hall, 241 W. South St.
  • Volunteer opportunities available through Volunteer Kalamazoo

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Convocation

Ora Stokes, a native of Jackson, Mississippi relocated to Kalamazoo, Michigan in 2001 in pursuit of her graduate studies at Western Michigan University. Ora has established herself locally and nationally as a powerful public speaker, poet and voice-over artist. Reaching others with words that encourage life changing actions and behaviors is Ora's aim with each public speaking opportunity. Ora's belief is salvation and education goes hand in hand, and credits her faith and her mother, the late Yvonne L. Travis (her first teacher), for her many successes. Since good communication is the lifeblood of all relationships, Ora is drawn to William Raspberry's quote, "Good English, well-spoken and well written will open more doors than a college degree...bad English, will close doors you never knew existed." Ora holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Jackson State University, Master of Arts degree from Western Michigan University, and a Western Michigan University Doctoral Candidate. She is currently employed with PNC Bank as a Certified Corporate Trainer.

  • 10:50 a.m.
  • Stetson Chapel
  • Kalamazoo College
  • Speaker: Dr. Ora Stokes

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Walk

Kalamazoo College students, faculty and staff with join the march with WMU students, faculty and staff.

  • 3:30 p.m. at the flagpole at Kanley Chapel, WMU; to Kalamazoo College Red Square, corner of Thompson and Academy streets, at 4 p.m.; to MLK Park, corner of Rose Street and West Michigan Avenue, at 4:30 p.m.

MLK Day Community Celebration

A community gathering to reflect community-wide day of service and to celebrate the MLK holiday with local performers.

  • Immediately following the "Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Walk" (approximately 5 to 6 p.m.)
  • The Radisson
  • Bronson Healthcare System and Borgess Medical Center
  • Beth Washington at (269) 341-8672 or Sister Sue McCrery at (269) 226-7061 

Tuesday, Jan. 19

Presentation to Dr. Lewis Walker Youth Social Justice Award Winners

  • 7 p.m. at City Hall during the scheduled City Commission Meeting