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MLK Jr. Celebration

Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The WCU community gathers annually to celebrate and commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Our focus during the week long celebration is the concept of community. Dr. King once said, 'We know that to bring justice, love, and friendship, we must build strong communities that foster these things.' We encourage you to consider these words and your role in building a strong community here at WCU and beyond.

The theme for the 2021 celebration is Black Excellence. It will look a little different due to the pandemic, and the importance of keeping our students, staff and faculty safe. The week's celebration events will be held February 21st through 27th, during Black History Month, instead of the week of the national holiday in January. Several virtual events, including a commemorative website, NAACP collaboration event, and keynote speaker will be held in January. See below for a full list of events.

2021 Keynote Speaker

Michael Eric Dyson is one of the nation’s greatest thinkers, one of its most distinguished writers, one of its most renowned orators, one of its most celebrated cultural critics, and one of its most penetrating media commentators. The Georgetown sociology professor — who has also taught at Brown, Chapel Hill, Columbia, DePaul and the University of Pennsylvania — has twice won the prestigious NAACP Image Award, has won the American Book Award, and has been cited as one of the most influential and powerful black Americans.

Dyson has written 19 books, many of them bestsellers, including his latest, the New York Times bestselling Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America, which the Times called “one of the most frank and searing discussions of race...a deeply serious, urgent book, which should take its place in the tradition of Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time and King’s Why We Can’t Wait.”

Dyson has routinely appeared on nearly every major media outlet and show, from Meet The Press to The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, from All Things Considered to Fresh Air, from PBS NewsHour to Real Time With Bill Maher, and from Tavis Smiley to Charlie Rose. Dyson’s influence on pop culture has led to him being cited in several rap lyrics, in being a clue in the New York Times Sunday puzzle, and in being requested by Beyonce to pen the foreword to her monumental Collector’s Edition How To Make Lemonade Box Set.

The ordained Baptist minister, former church pastor, former gang member, former factory worker, and longtime social activist, is perhaps summed up best by writer Nathan McCall, who calls Dyson “a street fighter in suit and tie.”

January Celebration Schedule of Events

Monday, January 18, 2021

MLK Jr. Commemorative Website

Created to virtually honor and observe the MLK Jr. holiday, January 18th, 2021, this virtual space includes an interactive and informative historical timeline of the events leading up to and during the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

MLK Jr. Commemorative Website

Monday, January 18, 2021

NAACP zoom event
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Logo for the NAACP


The Jackson County NC chapter of the NAACP, along with Reconcile Sylva, Down Home NC, Change NC and Indivisible Common Ground WNC will be sponsoring a Zoom event honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Please join us for a celebration of the life and vison of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr in a virtual presentation and day of service. You can join us at the Jackson NAACP YouTube Live Channel or on Facebook Live.

We will have a Cherokee land acknowledgement by Sky Sampson (Director, WCU Cherokee Center), Opening Comments from Dr. Enrique Gómez (NAACP secretary) as well as statements by Dr. Brandi Hinnant-Crawford (WCU associate professor, Department of Human Services), Ricardo Nazario y Colón (Chief Diversity Officer at WCU and Chair of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Hispanic/Latino Affairs), Dean Paulk (Assistant Director, WCU Intercultural Affairs), Dr. David Walton (WCU Director of African American Studies), and new Jackson NAACP President and WCU Intercultural Affairs Director, Dr Dana Patterson.  Email to receive instructions to join this event online. The public is welcome to join this special event. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Keynote Speaker, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson
6:00 - 8:00 pm

Photo of Dr. Michael Eric Dyson

Dr. Michael Eric Dyson

The North Carolina Cultural Consortium, a colllaboration of four NC system universities' multicultural centers, will bring the renowned Dr. Michael Eric Dyson to speak virtually. on Tuesday, January 26th, 2021. Zoom 'doors' will open at 6pm with Dr. Dyson begining at 6:30pm. Registration for the event is required.





February MLK Jr. Celebration Week/Black History Month Events


Monday, February 15, 2021

Applications for Black Excellence Awards Open

This award is to shine light on to the African-American students at Western Carolina University. Students may submit an application  with a short essay on what Black Excellence means to them. They must also submit a showcase of this meaning creatively, through an artistic avenue of their choosing. (Poem, song, painting, sculpture, etc.). Artistic showcases can be submitted to and are due by 5pm Thursday, February 25, 2021. Three awards will be given with scholarships:

1st Place: Plaque and $150 scholarship
2nd Place: Plaque and $100 scholarship
3rd Place: Plaque and $50 scholarship

Scholarship winners will be announced on multiple media platforms on Saturday, February 27, 2021.


Sunday, February 21, 2021

MLK Jr. Unity March
Host: Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

Poster Making 9:30am
UC Multipurpose Room

March with the brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. as we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


Monday, February 22, 2021

Dress For Success
Host: Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
All Day
5:30pm - Photo

Catamount Community come out and show out! Dress in your best business attire throughout the day and come participate in the group photo to commemorate what black excellence looks like.


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Black Excellence History Trivia
Host: The Black Student Union
7:00 - 8:30pm

In honor of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Black History Month the Black Student Union wants to invite you to a fun Jeopardy night filled with prizes and fun trivia about popular Black figures who helped shape the culture and a few unsung heroes as well! 


Wednesday, February 24th, 2021

 “I Have A Dream” Board
Host: ICA Council
6:00 - 7:00pm

Honoring Dr. King and his "I Have a Dream" speech, students will create a board that mirrors their dreams by using various materials that will help create their unique vision. Come to ICA beginning February 15, 2021 to pick up supplies to create your dream boards. Dream boards will be created together during the zoom on February 24, 2021.


Thursday, February 25th, 2021

**Black Excellence Awards Submisssions Due**

Black Literacy Voices
12:00 - 1:00pm
Host: Office Of Equal Opportunity And Diversity Programs

Black Literary Voices will feature a conversation through literature. We will examine the social political climate of today through a brief sample of African American literary voices of yesterday. For details email


How Black is Black Enough
Host: Student Government Association

In a world where black people are constantly viewed negatively, it is important that we stay united. No matter the shade of your skin, the views you have, the way you speak, the way you were raised, and so much more. We should always remain united and not divided. One way to stay united is by listening to one another and respecting the differences that we each possess. The event named “How Black is Black Enough” will do just that. It will be a panel event, where black students on campus will talk to each other about several topics that surround different things within the black community.


Saturday, February 27th, 2021

Roadside Cleanup Service Day
Host: Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
Exxon gas station parking lot

Let us work together to keep our community clean and beautiful.


Black Excellence Award Ceremony
Hosts: MLK Jr. Planning Committee, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
Instagram / MLK Website

Starting at six minutes after the the nineteenth hour, or 7:06pm (19:06 on a 24 hour clock), pays tribute to the founding of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc in 1906.  Dr. King was a member of the Aplhas as well.  This award ceremony shines light on to the African-American students at Western Carolina University. In order to receive an award, students submit an application where they will write a short essay on what Black Excellence means to them. They must also showcase this creatively through an avenue of their choosing. (ex. Poem, song, painting, sculpture). Three awards will be announced with scholarships:

1st Place: Plaque and $150 scholarship
2nd Place: Plaque and $100 scholarship
3rd Place: Plaque and $50 scholarship

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