A black and white photo of Martin Luther King Jr. looking to the left with his hands in front of his face.
MLK Week 2023 begins with a kickoff event about community wealth building at the VCU Institute for Contemporary Art on Jan. 15.

VCU’s MLK Week 2023 focuses on economic justice

Keynote event on Jan. 15 will feature speakers discussing community wealth building.

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Economic justice is the theme of this year’s annual Virginia Commonwealth University celebration of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. That focus will drive the keynote kickoff event occurring this coming Sunday as well as other events happening throughout MLK Week 2023.

“So much work remains to be done with regards to economic justice. It just made sense to our planning committee to take Dr. King’s words on the idea – which both inspire us and challenge us to do more – and let them guide us, especially with regards to VCU’s community engagement efforts,” said Verenda Cobbs, VCU senior manager for civic innovation and partnerships and co-chair of the MLK 2023 planning committee.

VCU’s new strategic plan, Quest 2028, is heavily focused on community engagement. One of the plan’s four pillars is titled, “Thriving Communities.” Of the plan’s 59 measurable goals and strategies, 22 of them are related to community engagement.

“It's important to highlight that more than one-third of our university’s strategic goals are about our relationships with the communities in and around our campuses,” said Stephen Davenport, VCU assistant vice president for social & economic development and co-chair of the MLK 2023 planning committee. “Our successes are interconnected and have been for a long time now. This new plan affirms our intentions to be a strong partner for success with our neighbors and community partners who live, learn, play and work near VCU, and to hold ourselves accountable for that work.”

MLK Week 2023 Keynote Event

MLK Week 2023 begins with a kickoff event about community wealth building at the VCU Institute for Contemporary Art on Sunday, Jan. 15, at 2 p.m. The keynote conversation will feature Reggie Gordon, Richmond’s deputy chief administrative officer, and Thad Williamson, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Richmond. The conversation will be moderated by Elsie L. Harper-Anderson, Ph.D., an associate professor in the VCU Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. Register at this link to attend this free event.

“Access to resources is central to our ability to meet our most basic needs and every person deserves to thrive,” said Archana Pathak, Ph.D., special assistant for special projects at the VCU Office of Institutional Equity, Effectiveness and Success, and co-chair of the MLK 2023 planning committee. “That cannot happen without economic empowerment. This conversation is foundational to VCU’s mission. Starting out 2023 with this event opens doors for VCU to step into its strategic plan commitments.”

Additional MLK Week Events

The annual MLK Candlelight Vigil March will take place Jan. 17 at 6 p.m. Participants will meet at the VCU Art Depo, at 814 W. Broad St., and silently march to the Academic Learning Commons at 1000 Floyd Ave.

The annual march began six years ago. Carlton Goode, Ed.D., brought it to VCU from Shaw University in North Carolina.

“I am a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity Incorporated,” said Goode. “Dr. Martin Luther King was an Alpha, too, so doing a vigil was how we celebrated his birthday.”

Check out the MLK Events page to find other events you can participate in, including a park cleanup service opportunity on Jan. 17 and a conversation about partnering with people and organizations in Richmond’s East End occurring Jan. 20 at the VCU Health Hub at 25th.