Multicultural Center to host MLK celebration

Mia Blankenship, Courier Staff

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In honor of Black History Month, Western Illinois University’s Gwendolyn Brooks Multicultural Center will be hosting its annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration on Thursday Jan. 25 in Horrabin Hall Theater at 5:30 p.m.

The celebration is held annually by the Cultural Center and is used to highlight and discuss current matters of race, discrimination, and equality as they have appeared in recent years. This year’s theme is “It is Our Business to be Bothered: Testimony and Witness at the Doorsteps of Activism.” From the name, it seems that this year’s celebration will bring into discussion the bystander witnesses and the responsibility such people hold in the movement to end discrimination.

McKinley E. Melton, an Assistant Professor of English at Gettysburg College, has the honor of presenting the keynote speech. Melton received a Career Enhancement Fellowship for Junior Faculty from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, was a 2015-16 postdoctoral fellow at the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry at Emory University, and has also been a visiting assistant professor of literature at Hampshire College. Given background in higher education, Melton’s keynote speech promises to be a fascinating presentation on the power that bystander testimony has in modern day activism and how that power can be used.

For those who are interested in learning more about activism and witness testimony while still the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration is free not only to students and employees of Western, but open to the public as a whole.

In addition to the Jan. 25 celebration, the Gwendolyn Brooks Cultural Center will host Nikki Giovani at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 5. Giovanni is an American activist and educator, as well as a writer and a poet. Her speech will be the keynote of the Cultural Center’s Black History month celebration, and will be held in the University Union Grand Ballroom.

Giovanni has been faculty at Virginia Tech University since 1987 and has since been named a University Distinguished Professor. Giovanni’s writing and activism has won her no small number of awards, which includes multiple awards from the NAACP, the Ladies Home Journal, and four “Woman of the Year Awards” from
Ebony Magazine.

When examining the impressive credentials of this year’s keynote speaker, as well as the home-hitting relevance in today’s cultural and political climate, this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration is shaping up to be a fascinating intellectual performance.

The WIU Black History Month presentation is open and free to the public.

For more information about either presentation, contact the Gwendolyn Brooks Cultural Center at (309) 298-2220 or email

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