Chapel Hill and Carrboro will host several special events this weekend into next week to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy.
"This is one of the few times a year when we have these community-wide celebrations of somebody who was so important both here and also across the nation," Carrboro Town Council member, Damon Seils, said.
On Jan. 20, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP will hold its annual rally and march. At 9 a.m., Chapel Hill Town Council member Tai Huynh will give a speech to rally-goers in the Peace and Justice Plaza.
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP will lead rally-goers on a march to First Baptist Church for coffee and conversations at 10 a.m., and at 11 a.m. UNC school of law professor, Gene Nichol, will deliver a community interfaith service.
UNC’s Office for Diversity & Inclusion will host two additional events.
Tickets have already sold out for the first event — the 35th annual University/Community Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Banquet and Award Presentation.
People can still attend UNC’s Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture and Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, Jan. 22 at 7 p.m. in Memorial Hall. This ceremony will announce the Unsung Heroes awards and UNC MLK Scholarship Awards. Georgetown University sociology professor, Michael Eric Dyson, will deliver the keynote speech.
UNC's Office for Diversity & Inclusion's communications specialist, Adrianne Gibilisco, said the ceremony will honor UNC students and staff who have served the UNC community in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.
“His legacy of service is something that we should all continue to do,” she said. “It just makes us stronger as a community and as a public university. I think it’s wonderful that we embrace his work and words all these years later.”
The event is free, but tickets, which are required, can be found at the Carolina Performing Arts and Memorial Hall ticket offices or online.
On Saturday, Jan. 18, the Town of Carrboro will also hold its own event for the second year in a row: a free youth-led celebration at the Carrboro Century Center from 1-3 p.m.
Carrboro’s recreation supervisor, Galen Poythress, said several different Carrboro youth groups planned the event, including the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Youth NAACP, the Youth Advisory Board and the Carrboro Youth Council, which Poythress oversees.
“Last year it was an amazing event, and we’re hoping to do even better this year," he said.
N.C. Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange , former N.C. Sen. Floyd B. McKissick Jr. and Rani Dasi, a Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education member, will speak at the event. Poythress said the event will also feature several performances, including the Ebony Dancers and an East Chapel High youth a cappella group.
Besides speakers and performers, Poythress said the youth groups will set up several tables. One such table will offer a long sheet of paper where people may write their dreams.
“We’re using the same one we had from last year, so we’re going to continue adding on to it and keep it going every year," Poythress said.
Unlike last year, the event will also offer an intermission.
After last year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day event, Poythress said he asked the youth event planners what they wanted to do differently this year. They told Poythress that they wanted to host a more community-oriented event.
“They didn’t just want it to be this spectacular event where people are performing and sitting in chairs and looking at the stage,” he said.
Instead, he said, they wanted people to talk to each other.
“They were like, ‘That’s what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would want. He would want people to mingle and talk,’” Poythress said.
Seils said Carrboro’s celebration will highlight all the “good work” happening in the Orange County community to advance social and racial equity.
“I think the big takeaway message should also be that there’s a lot of work left to do,” he said. “And that’s going to come through in these events as well.”
Here's a full list of MLK day events within Orange County:
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