MLK Week

Since 1997, the programs within the Community Engagement and Leadership Education (CELE) Center have partnered with the United Way of King County to recruit University of Washington students, faculty and staff into service projects to celebrate the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday in January. Over the years, we recognized an opportunity to broaden our campus celebration of MLK Day to include other forms of service such as art, activism, protest and self-care.

Our collaborative planning for MLK Day 2015 was deeply informed by student-led conversations and activism around the August 2014 murder of Michael Brown in St. Louis, MO. That year, in partnership with the Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center, we highlighted both the Day of Service through United Way and the Community March and Rally to mark the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

For celebrations in 2016, we expanded to a 10-day suite of events and called the series UW MLK Week. Our collaboration also expanded to include the Center for Communication, Difference, and Equity (CCDE) and the Q Center. Notable events included:

  • Celebrating MLK’s birthday with cake and inspiring spoken word performances featuring spoken word artists Nikkita Oliver and Troy Osaki.
  • A training on recognizing and addressing implicit biases, brought to campus by our corporate partner, Starbucks.
  • A performance by nationally recognized jazz troupe, the Langston Hughes Project, in the Ethnic Cultural Theater.
  • Hosting the Mobile Black History Museum, which brought 400+ years of thought-provoking artifacts to campus through their travelling collection.
  • Events organized and hosted by student organizations like the Black Student Union and Alpha Phi Alpha.
  • MLK Day service projects throughout the region, and community-led workshops, a job fair, rally and march centered at Garfield High School that engaged hundreds of students, faculty and staff.

Over the last few years we have continued to offer a range of engagement opportunities for MLK Week and have welcomed new members to the event workgroup. In addition to featuring student poet voices, hosting a birthday party kickoff, and bringing local artists and activists to campus, we expanded our outreach to student and staff groups and continue to explore collaboration efforts to amplify the celebration of MLK Day/Week at the University of Washington. We hope to continue to recognize the many ways our campus community celebrates and complicates the history and legacy of the civil rights movement in the ways they recognize the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday each January.