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Locals to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.

BY ASHLEY OERMAN | JANUARY 18, 2010 7:30 AM

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Before most students get out of bed today, Sean Thompson will have started to celebrate the man responsible for the day off from classes.

Thompson, a public-relations coordinator at the Carver College of Medicine, will join others at the IMU turning this vacation day into a day of service in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

“This is an opportunity to help people and do some good things,” Thompson said.

The UI is recognizing the civil-rights hero’s day by encouraging students, faculty, staff and community members to spend their day improving the community.

From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. the volunteers who meet at the IMU will be taken to “service sites” — organized by the UI Civic Engagement Program — at local nonprofit organizations to take part in volunteer activities.

Thompson, a 28-year-old who volunteers weekly at the Ronald McDonald house in Iowa City, said he would like to tell those thinking about sleeping in that volunteering is not only fulfilling but also a great way to meet new people and have fun.

“It’s up to individuals what they want to do with their time, but I think service projects are enjoyable as well as good for the community,” he said.

Jasmine White, a UI junior and member of the Black Student Union, said while it is important to recognize the day, giving back throughout the year is equally important.

She will take time during today to explain the importance of the civil-rights leader to younger family members. As a black student, it is important to recognize leaders who have led the progress of the black community, she said.

“[Today is] a significant day in our history,” White said.

The 19-year-old said she gives back by volunteering at Big Brothers Big Sisters in her home town and at school.

“My little sister [through the program] is African American, and I feel that by giving back to people who share my history it is helping us progress further,” she said.

City Councilor Terry Dickens, a lifelong Iowa City resident, said he has seen the effects of civil-rights activists such as King in the changes of the black community in Iowa City.

“Over the years, the diversity of the community has increased, which is important for the city,” he said.

The councilor said he typically spends King’s birthday watching programs, reading articles about the civil-rights hero, and recalling the day King was shot.

“That was a tough summer,” he said.

Though Dickens is unable to attend the upcoming university events, he said he will take some time to stop and think about what King did for America and recognize the meaning of the day.

In addition to today’s day of service, the UI has organized two full weeks of activities including an ice-cream social, speakers including the president of the University of Maryland, discussions about city policy and discrimination, movies, and concerts.


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