MLK Day will feature poems, songs, speakers and service

An afternoon of volunteerism, an evening of inspiration

Dr. King with students during his 1957 visit to Brandeis.

Liz Walker

Poetry, music, oratory and volunteer opportunities abound in the annual Brandeis commemoration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The main event will take place beginning at 6:30 p.m. in Levin Ballroom. The keynote speech will be given by broadcast journalist-turned-minister Liz Walker. She is also founder of Liz Walker Journey Productions is an independent non-profit communications company that seeks to increase public awareness of human rights issues around the world and to create opportunities for community building.

A graduate of Harvard Divinity School and an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Walker traveled to southern Sudan in the summer of 2001 to look into the slave trade there. She was so outraged by the human rights atrocities she observed that she co-founded My Sister's Keeper, a grassroots initiative that advocates for women and children who are trying to rebuild their country and their lives. She returns to the country often, and My Sister’s Keeper has constructed a school for more than 500 girls in southern Sudan.

Featured performers for the King memorial program, as described by the Associate Dean of Student Life Jamele Adams, chief organizer of the event, include:

  • Brandeis’ own jazz juggernaut Louise Grasmere
  • the melodic duet of Darlene Zephyrine’12  and Erin Lue-Hing ’12
  • celebrated poet Usman Hameedi ’12
  • scholar-poet Leah Staffin '14
  • scholar-saxophonist David Wheaton '15
  • spoken-word powerhouse Kayo, accompanied by poet “Proverb.”

The spirit and human embodiment of Dr. King will be further channeled through the delivery of one of Dr. King’s great speeches by Jermaine Hamilton’13, Adams said. The  Deland Senatus Unity Mass Choir, a gospel group, will sing.

Preceding the evening program, beginning at 1 p.m. in Levin Ballroom, the second annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Interfaith Service has been organized by Protestant chaplain Alexander Kern. Participants will be offered a wide range of volunteer service opportunities both on and off campus. Volunteers may register at that time or sign up online in advance.

On-campus activities include: Kids 4 Peace, a program for children under 12 to create prayer flags to send to Haitian orphans and homeless children in Massachusetts; a letter-writing-to-seniors project led by Brandeis MLK and Friends, the Brandeis Black Student Organization, and members of the Brandeis Haiti Initiative; a service learning workshop on Dr. King’s teachings on and militarism, materialism, and racism, run by Mass Peace Action and a service learning workshop on restorative justice approaches to crime, led by DoRight Ministries.

Off-campus opportunities include creating care packages for children in need at Cradles to Crayons; serving food, visiting residents and cleaning at Community Day Center of Waltham;  greening projects at Christ Church  and Temple Beth Israel in Waltham; cleaning and organizing the racial justice library  at Community Change Inc., and serving food for an MLK celebration with homeless children and families at the Home Suites Inn.

Participants in the day of service are asked to bring with them new or gently used winter clothing, footwear, gloves, toys and books for children.  [Email for donation guidelines]

A free dinner and reflection on the day’s activities will be held in International Lounge prior to commencement of the King memorial program in Levin Ballroom.

The evening program is sponsored by MLK Scholars and Friends, the Division of Student Affairs and the Office of Communications. The day of service is funded by the Massachusetts Service Alliance.

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