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Iowa City remembers Martin Luther King Jr.

BY LAUREN COFFEY | JANUARY 21, 2013 6:30 AM

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As the University of Iowa and Iowa City community continue their annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. this week, several voices say there is still progress to be made locally to advance many of King’s dreams.

“The civil-rights issues are still present today,” said Omolola Jimoh, a counseling specialist at the UI Center for Diversity and Enrichment. “We’ve made great strides, but we still have more to go.”

The center plays an integral role in the production of this week’s recognition of the man who spearheaded the civil-rights movement, hosting an event Thursday to discuss King’s legacy. An interfaith church service at the First Mennonite Church, 405 Myrtle Ave., kicked off the week of events, which ranges from today’s local Day of Service to plays and a march on the Pentacrest.

UI officials said it was important that each event showcase King’s contributions to history and to the civil-rights movement, the effect of which several locally agree resonate with today’s pressing social issues.

“[Martin Luther King Jr.] gave all Americans a vision to rally around and give a more perfect vision as our Founding Fathers have said,” said Nic Arp, the director of strategic communications for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “For example, the fight for gay rights has been greatly influenced by his movement. The way we live our lives in Iowa City is directly influenced by his legacy and vision, whether it’s a conscious thing or the legacy he left behind.”

Karla Stoltzfus, pastor for the Church of Community Life, also sees the parallels among prominent issues in the mid-20th century and present day.

“We wanted the focus to be on immigration this year, because we believe the struggle of African-Americans in the 1940s and immigration now have very similar struggles,” she said.

Karen Butler, chief of staff Office of the Vice President for Medical Affairs, finds importance in recognizing the issues King brought awareness to, because UI Health Care serves people from many different backgrounds and welcoming everyone is very important to the organization.

“From the people that work with us to the people we serve, we care,” she said. “One of the values of the organization is wanting everyone to feel welcome.”

While Jimoh said there is still work to be done, she believes that the weeklong celebration says something else about the community.

“Where I come from, we just take the day to devote [to King], so it’s refreshing to devote this chunk of time for celebration,” she said.


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