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Chapel Hill celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day with NAACP events

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Branch of the NAACP, alongside various UNC organizations, is hosting several free, public events to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day on campus and around Chapel Hill. 

The events begin at 9 a.m. with a rally at the Peace and Justice Plaza on East Franklin Street. The rally will be led by UNC’s chapter of the NAACP and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP’s Youth Council. UNC graduate and Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Award recipient Quinton Harper is the keynote speaker for the event.

Harper said he was inspired to speak at the rally by Oprah Winfrey’s recent speech at the Golden Globe Awards in which she asserted the power of using one’s voice to speak out against injustice. This year Harper said he hopes to appeal to the younger generation in his community organizing efforts across North Carolina.

“Using my voice is a theme for me in 2018," Harper said. "I wanted to lend my voice towards this movement and towards really reaching back into the community and inspiring, mobilizing and pulling along young people."

Harper said he has been humbled and inspired by the efforts of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, as well as UNC’s chapter.

“They’re looking around and identifying very concrete ways to make life better,” he said.

Harper was recognized by the university for his leadership in the National Black AIDS Mobilization Movement with the Martin Luther King Jr. scholarship in 2006. Last election cycle, Harper served as campaign manager for Alderman Barbara Foushee, and he is now the field director for the nonprofit Democracy North Carolina. 

The rally will be immediately followed by a march to the First Baptist Church of Chapel Hill on North Roberson Street. From 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., the church will hold a “coffee and conversation event,” which will be a reflection upon NAACP efforts since Martin Luther King Jr.’s time as an organizer, said Chapel Hill Carrboro-NAACP President Anna Richards.

“2018 marks 50 years since the assassination of Dr. King, and we want to explore the question of, 'Where are we 50 years later?'" Richards said. 

Following the discussion, the Religious Affairs Committee of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro branch of the NAACP will host an interfaith commemorative church service featuring N.C. Sen., D-Orange Valerie Foushee as the main speaker. Foushee is a Chapel Hill native, a UNC graduate and served as Chair of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education from 2001 to 2003. 

Reflecting on Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a whole, Harper called this new era of movements, protests and collective action the "remix” of the same movements that Martin Luther King Jr. spearheaded in the 1950s and 1960s. 

“We are fighting the same battles that they fought then,” Harper said.


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