Dr. King dedicated his life to improving the educational access and opportunity given to every person, and at the University of Utah we continue to strive toward those values. Martin Luther King, Jr. Week (MLK Week) has become a platform for engaging students, faculty, trainees, staff, and community members in critical conversations around race and contemporary civil rights issues in America. All are welcome to get involved and participate!
MLK Week is planned by a volunteer committee of students, faculty, trainees, and staff collaborating across the university. If you’d like to join our committee, share any ideas, sponsor events, or volunteer for MLK Week, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Choose Love Over Hate
In the spring of 1963, as Dr. Martin Luther King was preparing to help lead organized protests in Birmingham, he was simultaneously finishing his work on “The Strength to Love,” his first collection of published sermons to appear with Beacon Press. Dr. King’s notion of love wasn’t the amorous western ideal; King’s love required strength—even defiance in the pursuit of justice and equity. King understood his notion of love would seem contradictory to many readers—especially those seeing images of peaceful protesters in Alabama attacked by police dogs and battered by water cannons. But he insisted “darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
MLK Week 2023 hosted a series of events exploring the reverend’s complex ideas on the meaning of love and examined the strength needed to choose it when faced with hatred and division.
Becoming the Beloved Community
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of the “beloved community” as a nonviolent, just society where love and trust triumph over fear and hatred. In a year that has been filled with division, the planning committee chose “Becoming the Beloved Community” as this year’s theme so we could explore ways to bridge the divide and work together to become the beloved community. Events and conversations throughout the week honored Dr. King’s vision, offered direction, and challenged us to determine a better way forward.
“Good Trouble” is a term often associated with former United States Representative John Lewis. As a leader of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Lewis was the youngest person to speak at the March on Washington, August 28, 1963, and taught us young people must be the change they want to see by pushing and forcing older generations for equitable change. “I want to see young people in America feel the spirit of the 1960s and find a way to get in the way. To find a way to get in trouble, good trouble, necessary trouble.”
Face Everything And Rise
James L. Farmer, Jr., leader and activist of the Civil Rights Movement, highlighted the true process of social change when he stated, “Anyone who said they weren’t afraid during the civil rights movement was either a liar or without imagination. I was scared all the time. My hands didn’t shake, but inside I was shaking.” In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and countless others who chose to vacate their comfort zones and stand for a cause, this year’s MLK Week challenges us to redefine the definition of fear and its role in the fight for freedom and equality.
MLK Week 2019 served as a call to action for young people across our campus to engage in grassroots movements and communities that promote social change. Keynote Charlene Carruthers Carruthers lead a discussion on the power of grassroots movements, youth leadership development work, ways to strategize activism and build community solidarity.
TOXIC: A Conversation on Environmental Racism
This year’s theme addresses the intentionality of environmental racism through systems and policies that disproportionately regulate zoning laws, chemical and toxic waste, and access to natural resources for communities of color as a way to further inequity of social, economic, and political power.
We Live It. We Breathe It.
Inspired by the analogy of Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum who describes systemic racism as smog in the air, this year explored the ways in which these systems are manifested and ways we can achieve more fundamental and systemic levels of change. “Sometimes it is so thick it is visible, other times it is less apparent, but always, day in and day out, we are breathing it in.” Keynote Ta-Nehisi Coates spoke to the policies, practices, behaviors, and ideas that have affected how we all navigate the socio-political and economic realms today and throughout our U.S. history.
Activism: Now It's Our Turn
Like so many social movements in the past, young people have been at the center of driving social change. With technological advances and the use of social media, activism has changed over time. All of this year’s events are geared toward exploring the many complex topics and critiques around contemporary social actions through the lens of youth activism. The year’s theme focused on youth activism and strategies employed in current social movements, including the use and effectiveness of activism through social media, art, demonstration, acts of solidarity and ally work. Legendary rapper and activist Talib Kweli delivered the week’s keynote address, where he discussed his personal experiences as an activist through music and the importance of continued engagement by today’s youth.
Stolen Rights: Repressed. Revoked. Redefined.
Focused on civil rights that have been repressed throughout history; revoked in current events; and redefined through service, art, and activism, Princeton professor, activist and author Imani Perry gave the week’s keynote address on recent police shootings, the battle of racial inequality, and American race relations in the 21st century.
Beneath the Hoodie: A Look at Racial Profiling in America
MLK 2014 created a platform for a discussion of police brutality and racial profiling. The keynote address was given by Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, one of the leading hip-hop generation intellectuals in the country. Additional guests included Sybrina Fulton and Joaquin Zihuatanejo.
Justice for All: At What Cost?
The keynote address was given by Rev. Jesse Jackson, a world-renowned civil rights activist and politician who worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and has since continued the fight for social change. At his sold-out event, he challenged attendees to “honor the American promise of equal rights and possibilities for all”.