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W&M to celebrate MLK with week of learning, serving

The life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. will be celebrated next week by William & Mary’s students, faculty and staff through both learning and service programs.

Michael Eric DysonAbout two dozen William & Mary students will travel to Petersburg Jan. 16 and 17 to learn about civil rights and to engage in service projects, and on Jan. 20, a cross-campus, candlelit march and Martin Luther King commemoration program will be held, featuring Michael Eric Dyson who was named by Ebony Magazine as one of the 100 most influential black Americans.

Service-learning in Petersburg

Hosted by the Office of Community Engagement and Scholarship, the Petersburg service-learning trip will begin Sunday with an orientation to the history of the city. Aileen Aylward, the VISTA for the William & Mary-Petersburg Partnership, said that the students will hear from local leaders who have personally experienced “working with social movements and inequality, both in King's era and today.”

The next day, the students will engage in service projects with local housing and revitalization nonprofit organizations.

“Students will participate on house builds, and help with projects to increase the safety of elderly homeowners, for example,” said Aylward.

Throughout the experience, the students will learn about Petersburg during the civil rights era, social justice issues within the city today and current improvement opportunities for the community.

“To honor King's legacy and contextualize our service and the culture of service at W&M, we'll be learning about King's philosophy on service, his vision of a ‘beloved community,’ and his thought on the intertwined nature of poverty and inequality,” Aylward said. “We're collaborating with the Center for Student Diversity on this aspect, and are very excited!”

Although William & Mary students have travelled to Petersburg during Martin Luther King weekend over the past few years, this is the first time they will be joined by students at Richard Bland College.

Aylward said she is excited to have them take part in the weekend.

“It will be a great opportunity for our student bodies to get to know each other, and for Richard Bland students, who have the capacity to work in the community regularly, to get to know the partners we'll be working with,” she said.

Martin Luther King march and commemoration

At 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, members of the William & Mary community will gather at the Wren Chapel for the annual Martin Luther King memorial march and candle lighting ceremony. After some of the participants make remarks and read a few poems at the chapel, the group will light candles and walk across the campus to the Sadler Center. The event is sponsored by the Kappa Pi chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha and the William and Mary chapter of NAACP.

After the march, the Center for Student Diversity will host an opportunity for the campus and local community to learn more about the legacy of Martin Luther King with their annual commemoration for the famed civil rights leader. The 7 p.m. event is free and open to the public and will be held in Sadler Center’s Commonwealth Auditorium.

Dyson, the keynote speaker for this year’s commemoration program, is a professor of sociology at Georgetown University. He has written 16 books, including “April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Death and How it Changed America” and “I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King, Jr.” Dyson will hold a book signing following the event.

“The King Commemoration is always a wonderful highlight of the year here at the College,” said Vernon Hurte, director of the Center for Student Diversity. “We are very excited to have Dr. Michael Eric Dyson joining us as this year’s keynote speaker. His is a voice that consistently challenges our citizenry to face the good and not-so-good realities we see in the world today, in an effort to take courageous steps forward toward realizing Dr. King’s dream of the beloved community.”