MLK Celebration Week focus is ‘Reflections on the Fierce Urgency of Now’

'The goal is to better understand how King's message applies to us now and how we can act on it in current times,' said Archana A. Pathak, special assistant to the vice president of the VCU Division for Inclusive Excellence.

Photo of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with "MLK Celebration 2020, Jan. 19-25" displayed...
The theme for the MLK Celebration Week is “Reflections on the Fierce Urgency of Now.”

Virginia Commonwealth University is set to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. next week with a lineup of events from Jan. 19-25.

The theme for the MLK Celebration Week is “Reflections on the Fierce Urgency of Now.” King mentioned the phrase “the fierce urgency of now” twice during his life. The first was during his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C., and the second was during his “Beyond Vietnam” sermon in New York City. According to King: “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late.”

"The goal is to better understand how King's message applies to us now and how we can act on it in current times," said Archana A. Pathak, Ph.D., special assistant to the vice president of the VCU Division for Inclusive Excellence and associate professor in the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies.

The MLK Celebration Week kickoff event will be held Sunday, Jan. 19, from 2-4 p.m. in the James Branch Cabell Library Lecture Hall 303. The event, which is free and open to the public, will be a facilitated community conversation about putting King’s message into action. A short film will provide a starting point for the conversation. Jamelle Smith Wilson, Ed.D., dean of the School of Professional and Continuing Studies at the University of Richmond, is moderating the event. Prior to her appointment as dean, Wilson served as superintendent of schools for Hanover County. Wilson is a VCU graduate and the first female and first African American to serve as school superintendent in Hanover. 

Pathak said the event is designed to serve as a springboard to action.

“What can we do when we leave that room on Sunday to move forward in an actionable way?” Pathak said. 

On Monday, Jan. 20, the MLK Jr. National Day of Service, volunteers will help clear gravestones and clean up Evergreen Cemetery, a historic African American cemetery. The event will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Lunch and a discussion at the university will follow.

That night, the Theta Rho Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. will sponsor a candlelight vigil starting at 6 p.m. at The Depot, 814 W. Broad St., and ending at Cabell Library. Refreshments will follow in Rodney's Lounge in the Shafer Court Dining Center.

Pathak said that besides the campuswide events, various departments within the university are organizing focused events. She encouraged people to check the complete schedule on the MLK Celebration Week page at https://mlkday.vcu.edu

Other service opportunities are also being offered throughout the week. 

“We want to offer ways to serve the community long after MLK Week is gone,” Pathak said.

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