Activities at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo College and across the broader Kalamazoo community are planned to honor slain civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., including a convocation, march, day of service, educational programs and presentations.

"Equity in Action Uniting Community" is the theme of this year's celebration which includes events throughout 2016 to honor the 53rd anniversary of King's visit to WMU in 1963. All events are free and open to the public.

Wednesday, Jan. 13

WMU/Kalamazoo Public Schools Social Justice Book Bowl

Elimination competition for middle and high school students from surrounding area school districts

  • 5:15 p.m.
  • Linden Grove Middle School


Thursday, Jan. 14

"Realizing MLK's dream of a Beloved Community"

Readings and discussion led by Buddy Hannah.

  • Noon to 1:30 p.m.
  • Room 4240 Student Commons Theater, Kalamazoo Valley Community College

"The Courage to Create" Group Poetry Reading on Equity in Action

Semifinalists of the annual "Courage to Create" Poetry Competition in grades 7 to 12 will perform poetry on the theme "Equity in Action" and share their research on historical figures that have exemplified courage to create a just and equitable world. A reception for student-poets, K-12 teachers, local writers, competition judges and families will follow the event. Special guest orators will also perform poetry at the event. Sponsored by WMU Center for the Humanities, WMU Office for the Vice President for Research, WMU Office of Diversity and Inclusion. 

  • 4:30 to 7 p.m.
  • Adrian Trimpe Hall, WMU Multicultural Center

Thursday through Sunday, Jan. 14-17

The Mountain Top

The play depicts a gripping re-imagination of the events the night before the assassination of the Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. On April 3, 1968 after delivering one of his most memorable speeches, an exhausted Dr. King returns to his room at the Lorraine Motel while a storm rages outside. When a maid arrives with some surprising news, King is forced to confront his destiny and his legacy to his people. The New York Times says that "Even before the first flash of lightning, and there will be plenty of that before the evening's end, an ominous electricity crackles through the opening moments of The Mountain Top." Sponsored by Kalamazoo College Balch Festival Playhouse and Face Off Theatre Company.

  • Thursday through Saturday, Jan. 14-16 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 17 at 2 p.m.
  • Balch Festival Playhouse, Kalamazoo College

Friday, Jan. 15

Community Reflection

Led by Kalamazoo College students, faculty, staff and administrators.

  • 11 a.m.
  • Stetson Chapel, Kalamazoo College

Saturday, Jan. 16

Public School Students' Visitation

Open to middle and high school students and parents and guardians from Kalamazoo Public Schools and surrounding school districts.

  • 9 a.m. registration
  • East Ballroom, Bernhard Center

Sunday, Jan. 17

30th Annual Northside Ministerial Alliance Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration

Hosted by Rev. Dr. Addis Moore with a keynote by Rev. Dr. El. L. Branch, pastor of Third New Hope Baptist Church, Detroit.

  • 4 p.m.
  • Mt. Zion Baptist Church, 120 Roberson St., Kalamazoo

Monday, Jan. 18

Wellness Clinics

Borgess Health will offer afternoon sessions at several local downtown shelters, providing education about diabetes, heart care and cold weather precautions, as well as blood pressure checks. Contact: Lindsay Tuhacek, Borgess Health and Wellness, (269) 226-5220, or Sister Sue McCrery, Mission Integration, (269) 226-7061

City of Kalamazoo Communitywide Day of Service

Volunteer opportunities available through Volunteer Kalamazoo.

  • 8 a.m.
  • City Hall, 241 W. South St.


Ora Stokes, a native of Jackson, Mississippi relocated to Kalamazoo, Michigan in 2001 in pursuit of her graduate studies at Western Michigan University. Ora has established herself locally and nationally as a powerful public speaker, poet and voice-over artist. Reaching others with words that encourage life changing actions and behaviors is Ora's aim with each public speaking opportunity. Ora's belief is salvation and education goes hand in hand, and credits her faith and her mother, the late Yvonne L. Travis (her first teacher), for her many successes. Since good communication is the lifeblood of all relationships, Ora is drawn to William Raspberry's quote, "Good English, well-spoken and well written will open more doors than a college degree...bad English, will close doors you never knew existed." Ora holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Jackson State University, Master of Arts degree from Western Michigan University, and a Western Michigan University Doctoral Candidate. She is currently employed with PNC Bank as a Certified Corporate Trainer.

  • 10:50 a.m.
  • Stetson Chapel, Kalamazoo College

Pre-MLK Walk Discussion and Poster Making

  • 1 p.m.
  • Kanley Chapel

Kanley Chapel is opening its doors to students and participants of the Commemorative Walk that is meant to be held at 3:30 pm at the flagpoles. We will have posters available for decorating as well as food and hot chocolate while we engage in deep and meaningful discussion surrounding the differences and similarities between the Civil Rights era and ours today. If you have any questions please call (269) 387-2506 or email

Commemorative Walk

Kalamazoo College students, faculty and staff with join the march with WMU students, faculty and staff.

  • 3:30 p.m. at the flagpole at Kanley Chapel, WMU; to Kalamazoo College Red Square, corner of Thompson and Academy streets, at 4 p.m.; to MLK Park, corner of Rose Street and West Michigan Avenue, at 4:30 p.m.

Community Celebration

Immediately following the "Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Walk" a community gathering to reflect community-wide day of service and to celebrate the MLK holiday with local performers. Sponsored by Bronson Healthcare System and Borgess Medical Center. Contact Beth Washington at (269) 341-8672 or Sister Sue McCrery at (269) 226-7061 for more information.

  • 5 to 6 p.m., approximately 
  • The Radisson

Tuesday, Jan. 19

"Citizen King"

Film viewing and discussion.

  • 5:30 p.m.
  • Epic Theater, 359 S. Kalamazoo Mall

Presentation to Dr. Lewis Walker Youth Social Justice Award Winners

To be held during the scheduled city commission meeting.

  • 7 p.m.
  • City Hall, 241 W. South St.

Thursday, Feb. 11

Film Screening: At the River I Stand

AFSCME Local 1668, the Division of Multicultural Affairs, and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion will sponsor this film screening in celebration of Black History Month. The film recounts the two months prior to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s death and the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers' Strike.

  • 11:30 a.m., 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.
  • Multicultural Center in Adrian Trimpe Hall

FriDAY, FEB. 12

Film Screening: At the River I Stand

AFSCME Local 1668, the Division of Multicultural Affairs, and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion will sponsor this film screening in celebration of Black History Month. The film recounts the two months prior to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s death and the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers' Strike.

  • 11:30 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Multicultural Center in Adrian Trimpe Hall

Saturday, April 30

Ninth Annual Mental Health Forum

In collaboration with the 2016 Western Michigan University MLK Community Wide Celebration Emerging HOPE Family Strengthening Program will host its 9th Annual Mental Health Forum.

  • Noon to 4 p.m.
  • VanDuesen Room, Kalamazoo Public Library, downtown branch

The forum will feature a keynote address, "Making mental health and developmental disabilities a priority," by Rev. Joan Cornelison, MA, director of pastoral services, Hope Network, Grand Rapids.

Who should attend

Individuals and family members of young children, teen and young adults with special needs/disabilities (including: guardians, adoptive, biological, foster, and step-parents, domestic partners who co-parent, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, neighbors, community religious leaders, organizations and service providers who work with individuals and families with mental illness and/or developmental disabilities.  

Following the keynote speaker participants can choose from one of three educational workshops to attend. Workshops are listed below:

  • Child Welfare Law in Michigan as it Relates to Parents with Intellectual, Cognitive and/or Developmental Challenges, facilitated by, Cheryl L. Owens-Nebedum, LLMSW, HS-BCP 
  • Embracing People with Mental Illness and Developmental Disabilities within the Church," facilitated by Reverend Barrett Lee, MDiv.
  • Knowledge is Power: Advocating for Yourself or a Family Member in the Mental Health System, facilitated by Michele McGowen, LMSW.

Workshop registration is $25. An application has been submitted for State Continuing Education Clock Hours and WMU Continuing Education Units. Credit will be offered for all workshops and keynote address, pending approval. There is a fee for both SCECHs and WMU CEUs of $15 per participant.

Register now

For additional information contact Curtis or Pamela Robinson, Emerging HOPE Co-directors at (269) 205-3356 or

Wednesday, Jan. 27

Peace During War: The Ethics of Forgiveness

  • 4 p.m.
  • 3508 Knauss Hall

Feature short documentary about the turnaround of Michael Wilder and Yafinceio Harris, two former drug dealers from Kalamazoo who let go of their blood feud after serving time in prison and meeting again in college. Taking up Martin Luther King Jr.'s themes of forgiveness and non-violence in the context of urban poverty and crime, they now serve as role models for local youth through the Peace During War Project.  The 16-minute film will be followed by a discussion with Wilder and Harris, as well as the producer and director of the film, Jennifer Machiorlatti, a professor of communication at WMU. Co-Sponsor: School of Communication. Contact: Sandra Borden (