The King Coalition, in partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison and UW-Madison Division of Diversity, Equity & Educational Achievement, will be hosting the official City of Madison and Dane County observance of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday on Monday, Jan. 18, 6-7:30 p.m.

Due to the global pandemic, the program will be completely virtual. Events will be broadcasted live on both the Martin Luther King Coalition website and on WORT-FM 89.9

The theme of this year’s day of observance is “Challenging Injustice with Strength and Love,” noted Dr. Gloria Hawkins, co-chair of the Martin Luther King Coalition of Madison and Dane County. 

“We felt that this was very befitting a title because when we really reflect back on Dr. King and the civil rights movement, and how we were challenging injustice — segregation throughout the country, laws that really prohibited black people, and other people of color from public facilities as well as education — we begin to look at the injustice that has continued to incur and particularly as it relates this year when we have seen so many people who have been killed and how the justice system has really responded to it,” Hawkins said.

“We cannot be complacent,” Hawkins continued. “We must continue to challenge the injustices, not only in Madison and Dane County, but throughout the state and throughout the country because what affects us here, affects people throughout the country”

MLK Community Choir

The event will feature performances by the MLK Community Choir, a presentation of the MLK Humanitarian Awards by Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, and a keynote speech by author and Princeton University Professor, Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. 

Hawkins noted that Mr. Glaude was the right choice for this year’s keynote as a way to connect the civil rights movement of the ’50s and ’60s with today’s civil rights movement. 

“And when you really think about some of his speeches have been on looking at Dr. King and particularly in the later life, and a lot of his writings and his presentations are so focused on issues within our society that are r civil rights issues,” Hawkins said. “And so it was just appropriate.”

The program will also include a “call to action” as noted by Urban League Senior Vice President Edward Lee via the reading of a litany of rededication to encourage reflection and introspection amongst participants. 

“In light of everything that has transpired over the last week in particular, we think it’s more important than ever that the community join us in remembering and reflecting on Dr. King,” said Lee, co-chair of the King Coalition.

Prior to the day of observance, the King Coalition will also be hosting a variety of events over the holiday weekend.

On Sunday, Jan. 17, 4:30 p.m., the King Coalition, in partnership with First Unitarian society, will be hosting the annual ecumenical service. Speakers will include faith leaders from Christ the Solid Rock Church, SS Morris AME Church, James Reeb Unitarian Universal Congregation, Blackhawk Church, Hillel at the University of Wisconsin featuring music by Leotha Stanley.

On Monday, Jan. 18, there will be MLK Day Youth Call to Service, in which middle school and high school youth are invited to participate in a series of activism and empowerment workshops.

A Youth March on a previous MLK Day Youth Call to Service

However, the annual Free MLK Community Dinner will be not held this year in an effort to maintain public safety.

The event is financially sponsored by the Urban League, CUNA Mutual Group, Madison Gas and Electric, Madison Public Library, United Way of Dane County, SSM Health, Madison College, the Overture Center, Alliant Energy, Beth Israel Center, Capital City Hues, Congregation Shaarei Shamayim, Forward Community Investments, Gramling & Associates, Jewish Federation of Madison, J.H. Findorff & Son Madison, Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Summit Credit Union, Temple Beth El, UW Health, and Wegner CPA’s Coalition.