VCU hosts Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Week

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In lieu of the expected inclement weather, the following MLK Celebration events for Friday, January 22 and Sunday, January 24 have been rescheduled.

  • Community Dinner - rescheduled for Sunday, 1/31, 4 PM - Student Commons, Commonwealth Ballrooms, 2nd floor (please visit website to register)
  • Homelessness in the Community - rescheduled for Friday, 2/5, 11 AM - Student Commons, Common Ground, lower level
  • RPS MLK Middle School Volunteer Efforts - reschedule for Friday, 2/5 (please visit website to register)


A Black Lives Matter symposium, a “Let Freedom Ring” celebration concert and a community dinner will highlight VCU’s third annual MLK Celebration Week, Jan. 18-24.

As part of the week of events, which helps open the spring semester, students can volunteer in the community, learn and discuss key issues at panel events and “teach-ins,” donate to support the campus food bank or simply relax with a movie.

Beverly Walker, associate director of University Student Commons, said students arrive for the spring semester and “just hit the ground running.” MLK Celebration Week is “another way of engaging them in their first week of classes and letting them know there are opportunities to give back that you can take part in.”

At the Black Lives Matter symposium, nationally recognized activist Bree Newsome will join Alfred Dunham, chief of the Richmond Police Department; Adria Schar, executive director of the Richmond Peace Education CenterShawn Utsey, Ph.D., professor of psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences at VCU; and Angelique Scott, student activist and leader, for a discussion on race and social justice issues at VCU, in the Richmond community and in the United States.

Bree Newsome
Bree Newsome

Newsome is perhaps best-known for scaling a flag pole outside the South Carolina State House to take down a Confederate flag last June. Only weeks later, South Carolina lawmakers voted to remove the contentious symbol. The panel, which will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 20, at 7 p.m. in the University Student Commons Commonwealth Ballrooms, will be moderated by Ravi Perry, Ph.D., associate professor of political science in the College of Humanities and Sciences.

Thursday evening, Jan. 21, will feature student talent during the “Let Freedom Ring” MLK Celebration Concert. Students, student organizations and community members will share music, poetry and dance starting at 6 p.m. in the University Student Commons Richmond Salons.

On Sunday, Jan. 24, the MLK Community Dinner will help collect food for VCU students in need. Guests are asked to bring a nonperishable food item to benefit the RamPantry to receive their plate. Advanced registration is required. Vernon Gordon, a VCU alumnus and pastor at The Life Church, will offer remarks and the Black Awakening Choir will perform at the event.

The dinner will highlight a new partnership with Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, Walker said. VCU student volunteers will visit the school and work with middle-school students on math, science and literacy topics. VCU is also supporting an essay contest, which has 39 entries in its first year.

“The winners from sixth, seventh and eighth grade will come to the community dinner on Sunday and have the opportunity to share their essay,” Walker said.

The MLK Celebration Week began in 2014 to honor and raise awareness of King’s life and legacy in the U.S.

“As VCU celebrates the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we are also honoring what makes our university community so distinctive and beautiful,” said VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., in a video. “We are proudly the most-diverse university in the commonwealth, in all of the ways in which people are diverse, and we are committed to become one of the most-diverse universities in the nation.

“We, like Dr. King, have also committed ourselves to serving our fellow human beings.”

From modest beginnings in 2014 with two events – a mid-day birthday celebration and the community dinner – MLK Celebration Week has grown and been embraced across VCU, Walker said.

“I said, ‘We need to do something. Let’s start small and see what happens,’” she said. “We’ve got some great sponsors to be part of it. More folks are interested in being involved.”

The week will offer a variety of other opportunities to volunteer and donate to support the Richmond community, while learning more about King’s legacy. Although the university is closed Monday, Jan. 18, for the federal holiday, there will be events and volunteer opportunities through Hands on Greater Richmond that day. There will also be three opportunities to register to vote during the week.

“Beginning the semester by participating in one of the activities offered to honor Martin Luther King Jr. is a wonderful way to acknowledge how fortunate we are to be a part of the VCU community,” said Catherine Howard, Ph.D., vice provost for community engagement. “We are also reminded by Dr. King that with these blessings comes responsibilities. We each have a responsibility to help others so that we can all live in a ‘beloved community.’”

A full listing of events and activities is available at , with highlights below.


  • Homelessness in the Community, Friday, Jan. 22, 11 a.m., Common Ground, University Student Commons
    Join an engaging activity of conversation, creation and distribution surrounding the local homeless community. Participants will create winter item bags, while having a conversation facilitated by a representative from the Daily Planet regarding the needs of the homelessness community and the role that VCU can play. Volunteers will then distribute the winter item bags in Monroe Park at the end of the service and conversation.

  • Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, Friday, Jan. 22 (times TBA)
    Volunteering in selected classrooms, including math, literacy and reading projects. Visit for updates. Students will also assist with an essay contest.


  • RamPantry Collection Drive, all week
    Nonperishable food items will be collected throughout the celebration week at all events.

  • Pencil Drive, all week
    Collection of pencils to benefit Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School will occur throughout the celebration week at all events.

  • Blood Drive, Tuesday, Jan. 19, noon-6 p.m., Larrick Student Center, MCV Campus, and Wednesday, Jan. 20, noon-6 p.m., Bloodmobile, Commons Plaza
    One unit of blood can save three lives. All blood collected benefits Virginia Blood Services. No appointments are necessary, but please be hydrated before donating.

Listen, learn and celebrate

  • MLK Day Candlelight Vigil, Monday, Jan. 18, 7:29 p.m.
    The Theta Rho Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, Inc., will host a candlelight vigil to commemorate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity himself. Participants will engage in a silent vigil and march from Monroe Park to the VCU Compass. This event will include a brief dialogue of the history and legacy of King, a performance by the Black Awakening Choir and a closing prayer
  • MLK Birthday Celebration and Service, Tuesday, Jan. 19, noon, lobby of University Student Commons, Monroe Park Campus, and Larrick Student Center, MCV Campus
    VCU community members will enjoy a theatrical re-enactment of Dr. King by actor Tony Cosby, while participating in service projects that support military families and elder care residents. (Note that Mr. Cosby's performance will take place at the Monroe Park Campus only.)

  • Teach-In: “A Modern Civil Rights Movement,” Wednesday, Jan. 20, noon, Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, University Student Commons, room 215
    This forum will dissect today’s Civil Rights Movement led by young Americans.

  • Interfaith Panel Discussion, Thursday, Jan. 21, noon, University Student Commons, Commons Theater
    "What Unites Us?" Includes spiritual representatives from multiple perspectives. The panelists will be asked to share their unique perspectives on how we can all help create communities that honor our diverse perspectives.

  • Activities Programing Board Movies: “Selma” and “Dear White People”
    Friday, Jan. 22: University Student Commons, Commons Theater
    7 p.m. - "Selma" (2014): A chronicle of Martin Luther King's campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965. (
    9:30 p.m. - "Dear White People" (2014): The lives of four black students at an Ivy League college. (

    Saturday, Jan. 23: University Student Commons, Commons Theater
    7 p.m. - "Dear White People" (2014): The lives of four black students at an Ivy League college. (
    9:30 p.m. - "Selma" (2014): A chronicle of Martin Luther King's campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965. (


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