William Woods University Celebrates Martin Luther King Day

On Jan. 19, William Woods University will celebrate Martin Luther King Day by remembering the past and looking toward the future. The activities at WWU are designed to increase understanding of Martin Luther King’s contributions and allow students the opportunity to follow in his footsteps by making a positive impact on society.


For His Glory, Inc., a praise dance group, will visit the campus. The group recognizes the correlation between Martin Luther King’s great works and his great faith. They will give a brief oral presentation on the topic, and then perform a routine in his honor. The dance presentation will take place at 1 p.m. in Dulany Auditorium.  It is sponsored by Tammy Carter, WWU coordinator of multicultural affairs.


The documentary “MLK in Chicago” will be shown at 4 p.m. in the Library Auditorium. This documentary explores a little remembered aspect of King’s career – his attempt to bring the Civil Rights Movement to northern urban areas like Chicago and address the problems of unofficial segregation, class and poverty. Less successful than his attempts to break down official segregation and discrimination in the South, King’s Chicago campaign offers a timely reminder about the continuing problems of class and poverty in contemporary American society. The film is sponsored by Stephen Hageman, WWU history instructor.   


At 7 p.m. in the Library Auditorium, the PBS documentary “Citizen King” will be shown. The documentary takes the viewer from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in August of 1963, the site of King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, to the bloody end five years later on a motel balcony in Memphis, Tenn. Using personal recollections, diaries, letters and eyewitness accounts, the film brings new insights into the life of an American hero. The film is sponsored by the Rev. Travis Tamerius, university chaplain.


The presentation by for His Glory, Inc. and the viewing of “MLK in Chicago” and “Citizen King” are all free and open to the public.


Throughout the day, up to 30 students will have the opportunity to participate in the MLK Service Day Project, part of a nationwide day of service in King’s honor. King identified service as a means of strengthening communities, empowering individuals and bridging barriers. WWU students will have the opportunity to help strengthen their community by volunteering at least an hour of their time at one of two community agencies, Faith Maternity Care and Soup Kitchen, Inc.


At Faith Maternity Care, students will get a head start on spring cleaning. They will paint, clean the fire places and gutters, wash windows, rake and bag leaves, and even help to create a “life wall,” a photo wall of all the babies born on the premises.


At Soup Kitchen, Inc., students will help set up and tear down for the meals, and visit with those eating at the kitchen.


According to Cassie Davis, academic service learning coordinator, the project gives students the opportunity to continue King’s work.


“This is what Martin Luther King stood for: working toward equality, working toward eradicating poverty and building relationships. When we do this, we’re working toward the same goals he targeted in his lifetime.”


Davis hopes that the project will allow students to feel like they made a real difference in society.


“We want to give them the opportunity to interact with the community more,” said Davis. “As a college student, it can be hard to find agencies in need. We want to give them a sense that they were able to make a difference. I’ve received calls from different professors who are sending their students to this event, or letting them leave class early or arrive late so that they can participate in this project. There is so little time in a college student’s day. They won’t get the chance to do this next Monday, or the Monday after—they’ll be in class. It’s a special opportunity.”


Congress designated Martin Luther King Day a national day of volunteer service in 1994, but this is the first time WWU has participated. Though they are only targeting two agencies this time, if all goes well, plans are to expand the event for 2010.


“This is our first time participating, and we’re getting on board a bit late, so we’re starting small,” said Davis. “This really is a pilot run. We would like for it to grow. We’re hoping it goes really well so we can expand it for next year.”