The COVID-19 pandemic has created a lot of change in our world, one being the near absence of large, in-person events.
While some annual ceremonies and celebrations may be on hiatus, others are altering the ways in which they reach the public. Georgia College is taking a page out of the latter playbook as the university moves ahead with plans for its yearly Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance, although in a different format.
In recent years, GC has hosted an MLK Day breakfast open to both the college and community members. There the work of local K-12 students has been highlighted as they were asked to read one of the civil rights leader’s works and respond through essay or poem.
This year, the liberal arts university has organized a few days of virtual programming that will be accessible to the public. Beginning Tuesday, these events will be spread across several days from Jan. 19-23.
Nadirah Mayweather, director of the GC Cultural Center and second-year chair of the college’s MLK Day efforts, says now is as important a time as ever for the country to take heed of Dr. King’s message.
“I think it’s extremely important for us to think about unity, brotherhood and the human race,” Mayweather said. “We all have differences, but it’s important for us to figure out how we can work together to make sure that everyone is well and taken care of. I think, now more than ever, it’s important to reflect back on things we may be doing wrong, and things that are opportunities for us to get right or redo.”
Part of the preparations for this year involved reading King’s 1967 book “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?”. Mayweather shared that reading some of the words in that work resonated especially well with some of the challenges facing the human race today.
“It’s quite interesting that 50 or so years later much has changed, but much also hasn’t changed, especially when it comes to the state of our nation and our world,” she said. “Unfortunately we find ourselves facing some of the same obstacles and figuring out what we can do to bring about real change. It’s crucial for us to look at some of the concepts he preached and figure out what we can do so 50 years from now we are talking about the wins and successes we’ve had through the challenges life has presented us.”
Dubbed “King Week 2021,” programming kicks off Tuesday at 7 p.m. (rather than Monday due to students being off) with a keynote address by MLK scholar Dr. Walter Earl Fluker, a professor at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. He’ll discuss Dr. King’s “Where Do We Go From Here?” book.
“He is an expert on ethical leadership, and has studied the life of Dr. King as well as others who fall into ethical leader categories,” said Mayweather.
Georgia College’s MLK Day committee wanted to continue involving local youth, so Thursday, Jan. 21 at 7 p.m. has been set aside for that purpose. There, winners of this year’s literary response competition will be honored and also allowed to read their work to virtual attendees. Another element has been added this year with everything happening online. Winners will sit in the seats of local leaders as they read from Milledgeville City Council chambers inside City Hall. Some of the students will also be joined by Georgia College student leaders in a moderated panel after their readings.
Friday is creative expressions night featuring the GC gospel choir and other local artists reading works or performing. That begins at 7 p.m.
Finally, because Dr. King’s messaging was often about service rather than just words, a day of community service has been planned for Saturday the 23rd. Some GC students will help out a local church with some work, but also the community at-large may participate in a monthlong school uniform drive benefitting needy students in local public schools. People may drop off school uniform items such as solid-color collared shirts, pants, shorts or skirts. Gently-used socks and belts will also be accepted. Items may be taken to the GC Give Center inside the Maxwell Student Union or the Cultural Center inside Blackbridge Hall. Both centers are located on Clarke Street on the GC campus. Mayweather said a goal of 2,021 items collected has been set.
All of the virtual events including Tuesday’s keynote address, education night next Thursday and creative expressions night next Friday will be accessible through online videoconferencing platform Zoom. To receive links to any of the events, email Mayweather at email@example.com. She said links will also be posted on the GC Cultural Center Facebook page closer to each event.