Ilyasah Shabazz, an award-winning author, educator, and producer, and the daughter of legendary civil rights leader Malcolm X, will be the keynote speaker at the 37th Annual Madison-Dane County Martin Luther King Jr. Day Observance that will take place virtually on Monday, Jan. 17, 6-7 p.m. The event is one of many events that are hosted each year by the King Coalition during the MLK holiday season.
“We’re super excited to have one of Malcolm X’s children as our keynote speaker this year,” said Ed Lee, who is the co-chair of the King Coalition along with Dr. Gloria Hawkins. “It will be exciting to be hearing about the work that she has been doing and how that honors the legacy of both what her parents fought their whole lives for, as well as what Dr. King fought his whole life for. Just hearing from someone so directly connected to one of the great leaders of the Civil Rights Movement is wonderful.”
The King Coalition was established in 1985 as a community group to plan the official observance of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday City of Madison and Dane County. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all of the King Coalition MLK events will be virtual this year. The MLK Free Community Dinner, which traditionally kicks off the MLK Day weekend at Gordon Commons, has been canceled this year. However, the official City-County Observance, MLK Ecumenical Service, and the MLK Youth Call to Service event will all continue with virtual observances of the Dr. King Holiday.
“I’m very much looking forward to that and seeing our youth gather on Monday at the MLK Youth Call to Service,” Lee says. “It’s important that they continue to understand the history and the legacy and the work that remains to be done and for them to be inspired and provided with some direction and opportunity for how they can continue to live their lives in a way that pushes forward with Dr. King’s vision.”
Monday night’s annual Madison-Dane County Martin Luther King Jr. Day Observance will include the presentation of the MLK Humanitarian Awards to community leaders Will Green, Vanessa McDowell and Michael Johnson. Noted musician Leotha Stanley will lead the MLK Community Choir.
“The purpose of the evening program on Monday night is really to bring people together and for us to really celebrate the legacy and vision of Dr. King,” said Hawkins. “For us to really see how his principles and tensions are so appropriate today. When we think about his vision of a just and equitable society, where people are judged by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin, and we can even extend that into their language or where they’re from.
“We really need to keep his vision in mind, because we are confronted daily that people do judge us based not only on skin color, but language, socioeconomic status, and where we live,” she adds. “We really must be mindful. It’s a struggle for human and social equality and economic justice.”
The co-chairs talked with Madison365 about the importance of community and self-care during a long pandemic. Hawkins emphasized the importance of reflecting on how people treat each other and how a little empathy and self-care can create societal change.
“It’s important that we not only take care of ourselves, but when we take care of ourselves, we’re also really being mindful that we can also extend ourselves to others,” said Hawkins. “This pandemic has taught me a number of things. It has taught me that we need to be creative in how we reach out to others. That’s one of the reasons why we have the virtual program, and we would not allow ourselves to be defeated by not having a holiday observance.”
For more information about upcoming King Coalition MLK Holiday events, click here.