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Middleton Event Aims to Change the Narrative Around MLK

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This article is published as part of a media partnership between Madison365 and Middleton Cross Plains Area School District.

A new day to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr Day aims to reshape the narrative about the civil rights leader.

The MLK Forum for Social Action will take place Saturday, January 19 at 4 p.m. at the Middleton Performing Arts Center at Middleton High School. It is sponsored by a number of school districts around Dane County, including Madison, Middleton, Mt. Horeb and Oregon, as well as Edgewood College. Madison365 is the media sponsor of the event.

Organizer Percy Brown, Director of Equity and Student Achievement at Middle Cross Plains Area School District, says he hopes the event will create “space for a different narrative.”

Brown says the mainstream vision of King as a moderate, relatively docile voice for civil rights is not accurate.

“Typically every year it’s always MLK the dreamer, which is not an accurate snapshot of who MLK was in this few years leading up to the assassination,” Brown says. “He was really taking on issues of poverty nationwide, he was protesting the Vietnam War, he had a powerful speech called ‘The Three Evils of Society’ where he talked about the evils of racism, militarism and economic exploitation. If you look at the conditions today, I don’t think MLK would be appreciating a celebration, but probably would continue to be on the front lines pushing the agenda for equal rights.”

The event will feature artistic performances from GK For Life, a joint dance team from Glacier Creek and Kromrey Middle Schools, as well as spoken word artist Dom Ricks, who graduated from the UW’s First Wave program and is now Dean of Students at Glacier Creek.

The event will also feature speakers on a range of topics related to education.

Brown himself “will basically kind of highlight where we were in education pre-Brown, talk about Brown a little bit, but also talk about the state of public education today but really changing the narrative of Dr. King,” he says.

Retired UW professor Gloria Ladson-Billings will also speak on what she calls the “education debt,” and Percy Brown’s uncle, Charles Brown, who was an activist during the Civil Rights era, will speak on the desegregation of the Mississippi Delta and his experiences in the south in the 1960s.

The event is scheduled to last from 4 until 6 p.m. It is free and open to the public. A live video will be streamed on Madison365’s Facebook page.