Ilyasah Shabazz, award-winning author, educator and producer and daughter of legendary civil rights leader Malcolm X, will be the keynote speaker at the 37and Madison-Dane County’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration taking place virtually on Monday, Jan. 17, from 6-7 p.m. The event is one of many events the King Coalition hosts each year during the MLK holiday season.
“We are thrilled to have one of Malcolm X’s children as our keynote speaker this year,” said Ed Lee, co-chair of the King Coalition with Dr. Gloria Hawkins. “It will be exciting to hear about the work she has done and how it honors the legacy of what her parents fought for all their lives, as well as what Dr. beaten his whole life. Just hearing from someone so directly connected to one of the great leaders of the civil rights movement is wonderful.
The King Coalition was formed in 1985 as a community group to plan the official holiday observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. City of Madison and Dane County. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all King Coalition MLK events will be virtual this year. The MLK Free Community Dinner, which traditionally kicks off MLK Day weekend at Gordon Commons, has been canceled this year. However, the Official City and County Observance, MLK Ecumenical Service, and MLK Youth Service Call Event will all continue with virtual Dr. King Holiday celebrations.
“Really looking forward to being there and seeing our youth come together Monday at the MLK Youth Service Call,” Lee said. “It is important that they continue to understand the history, the legacy and the work that remains to be done and that they are inspired and given direction and opportunity on how they can continue to live their lives as a way that moves forward with Dr. King’s vision.
On Monday evening, Madison-Dane County’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration will include the presentation of the MLK Humanitarian Awards to community leaders Will Green, Vanessa McDowell and Michael Johnson. Renowned musician Leotha Stanley will lead the MLK Community Choir.
“The purpose of the Monday night evening program is really to bring people together and for us to really celebrate Dr. King’s legacy and vision,” Hawkins said. “It’s up to us to really see how his tenets and tensions are so appropriate today. When we think of his vision of a fair and just society, where people are judged on the content of their character, not the color of their skin, and we can even extend this to their language or their origin.
“We really have to keep his vision in mind, because we are confronted daily with the fact that people judge us not only on the color of the skin, but also on the language, the socio-economic status and the place where we are. live,” she adds. “We really have to be careful. It is a struggle for human and social equality and economic justice.
The co-chairs spoke with Madison365 about the importance of community and self-care during a long pandemic. Hawkins stressed the importance of thinking about 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 aware that we can reach out to others as well,” Hawkins said. “This pandemic has taught me a number of things. It taught me that we need to be creative in how we reach out to others. This is one of the reasons we have the virtual program, and we wouldn’t let ourselves be defeated by not observing a holiday.
For more information on upcoming King Coalition MLK Holiday events, click here.