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Various events celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.'s life

BY DANIEL SEIDL | JANUARY 21, 2014 5:00 AM

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Joyful singing filled one local church to commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The Rev. Orlando Dial of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church said one important part of King’s life was his religious involvement.

“[We are] focusing on Rev. King, as opposed to Martin Luther King,” he said. “Many times people refer to him as a civil-rights leader, but he was first and foremost a preacher.”

Bethel hosted its second Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Annual Program & Celebration on Monday.

Bethel’s event was just one of many held, or to be held, by Iowa City community members and the University of Iowa throughout the week to remember King’s legacy.

A unity walk was held by the UI to celebrate King bringing together people of many different ethnicities. The walk went around the Pentacrest, beginning and ending at the Old Capitol.

After the walk, participants heard several speakers in the Old Capitol Senate Chamber commemorate King’s legacy. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, one of the speakers, said King’s life taught it is important to take an active role in making change.

“[King] … knew nothing could happen if folks didn’t really serve their communities as best they could,” he said. “You [have to] put on your shoes, you [have to] be part of the action … but we need a whole heck of a lot more than that.”

Melissa Abram-Jackson, the manager of Organizational Development & Training at the University of Houston Downtown, echoed Loebsack’s belief.

“If we don’t receive, take ownership of, [or] find our place in the legacy … then today really becomes nothing more than a day off,” she said. “We don’t have to stage protests [or] become part of a march to make change. It’s really not the volume of your voice, it’s the impact of your voice. But first you have to find it.”

Though Iowa City residents agree King’s life is worth remembering, there is some disagreement on how it should be celebrated.

One issue that’s been a hot topic in Iowa City is whether students should spend the holiday in school, learning about King, or out of school celebrating in their own way. While the UI has always had class off on the day, the Iowa City School District held classes Monday.

Dial said if it is recognized as a national holiday, students should take off the day.

“We have 180 days to teach diversity, and you should every single day,” he said. “I think we should respect it as a national day off.”

Billie Townsend, program manager of the UI’s National Alliance for Doctoral Studies in the Mathematical Sciences and a member of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, said it is unfair to look at this holiday any differently than other national holidays.

“If you’re going to make Martin Luther King Day a day in class, you need to look at the other holidays,” she said. “Why should [this] holiday be any different.”

Townsend noted that people of all ethnicities, not just African Americans, should celebrate King’s day.

“It’s not a black holiday,” she said. “It’s a holiday for everybody.”


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