Area educational institutions partner to bring Melissa Harris-Perry as speaker during MLK event

MLK events on January 17 have been canceled due to weather.

Author and educator Melissa Harris-Perry will be the keynote speaker at a West Michigan community event to commemorate the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  

Harris-Perry will speak at 6 p.m. on January 15 at the 38th annual community celebration at Fountain Street Church, 24 Fountain St. NE in Grand Rapids. The event is free and open to the public. 

A longstanding partnership among Davenport University, Grand Rapids Community College and Grand Valley State University makes it possible for Harris-Perry to visit West Michigan for the community event and two other presentations.

Melissa Harris-Perry standing with arms crossed
Melissa Harris-Perry will give three presentations in West Michigan to commemorate the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Harris-Perry is the Maya Angelou Presidential Chair at Wake Forest University in the Department of Politics and International Affairs, the Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and the Program in Environment and Sustainability.

She is the founder and president of the Anna Julia Cooper Center, whose mission is to advance justice through intersectional scholarship and action. Harris-Perry is the author of the award-winning books "Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought" and "Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes and Black Women in America."

GVSU President Philomena V. Mantella said she is grateful to leaders at Davenport and GRCC for their continued commitment to bringing a national speaker to Grand Rapids to give insight and relevance to King's messages. 

“At a time when our world is filled with violence and conflict, it’s more important than ever to reflect on and be inspired by the life and lessons of Dr. King,” Mantella said. “Higher education plays an important role in developing inclusivity and equity and we’re honored to partner with GRCC and Davenport on this important event.”

Davenport President Richard J. Pappas said: "It gives me hope that, despite our societal struggles that could discourage us, we come together as a community and commit publicly to be inclusive and embrace diversity. We find strength in our joint mission to keep fighting injustice and magnifying what we know to be good and what we hear in Dr. King's timeless message." 

GRCC President Charles Lepper said as the country celebrates King's life and legacy, he "encourages our community to reflect on how we can work together to create a more just and equitable society."

"By joining forces, we have the power to cultivate a profound sense of belonging and establish an inclusive, hospitable, and respectful environment not only within our campuses but also across the globe," Lepper said.

Community sponsors for the January 15 event at Fountain Street Church include the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, Consumers Energy, Corewell Health, Foster Swift, Mercantile Bank, and Warner Norcross + Judd LLP .

Events at GVSU, including Harris-Perry's presentation, commemorating King run through January 20. Harris-Perry will speak at Davenport University on January 16.

MLK Commemoration Week at GVSU

A slate of events continues at Grand Valley through January 20. They are detailed below.

Dar Mayweather seated at table
Dar Mayweather, '07 and '09, will give a keynote address on January 17 in the Kirkhof Center.

January 17, Keynote and Silent March

GVSU graduate Dar Mayweather, '07 and '09, will give a keynote address. Mayweather is the founder of an inclusive leadership consulting business, Doing the Good Work , and a leadership studies faculty member at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

His presentation is Wednesday, January 17, at 4:30 p.m. in the Kirkhof Center, Grand River Room. This event follows the silent march, which will begin at 4 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public.

Mayweather teaches leaders inclusion strategies that allow colleges and university stakeholders to close the gap between their intention and action. He earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and a master's degree in higher education administration from GVSU, and an MBA certificate and a doctoral degree in education from Eastern Michigan University. 

TaRita Johnson headshot
TaRita Johnson, senior vice president of Talent and Diversity at The Right Place in Grand Rapids, will give a presentation on January 18.

January 18, Keynote Presentation

TaRita Johnson, senior vice president of Talent and Diversity at The Right Place in Grand Rapids, will weave together her story with the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in a presentation sponsored jointly by the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies and the Division of Inclusion and Equity.

Johnson's presentation will be Thursday, January 18, beginning at 5 p.m. at the DeVos Center, Loosemore Auditorium. Following the keynote, a reception will begin at 6 p.m. This event is free and open to the public. RSVPs are required. People attending virtually will be sent a Zoom webinar link after registering.

Prior to joining The Right Place in 2021, Johnson served as the director of the Career Center at Calvin University. She oversaw the center’s career coaching, employer relations, event and marketing analytics and assessment. She was responsible for cross-divisionally creating and launching a career and life skills program, Calvin LifeWork. 

two women in pool with caps and googles on
Team Dream will be screened followed by a panel discussion twice on January 18.

January 18, Team Dream

Team Dream, the first documentary short from the 2022 Queen Collective program, was produced by Queen Latifah and directed and produced by Luchina Fisher.

The film will be screened followed by a panel discussion twice on January 18: 11:30 a.m. in the Kirkhof Center, Pere Marquette Room, and at 7 p.m. in the DeVos Center, Loosemore Auditorium (following TaRita Johnson's presentation and reception).

Fisher’s film follows Ann Smith and Madeline Murphy Rabb, who are 82 and 77 years old, respectively, revealing that nothing — not age, not race and certainly not Chicago’s notorious weather — will stop them from training for the 2022 National Senior Games, where they will likely be the two of the few Black women competing in the swim events. "You are never too old to Dream." A decade after joining Team Dream, a Chicago-based organization training women of color in swimming, biking and triathlon, Smith and Rabb continue to reach goals they never thought possible.

Joining the panel discussion will be Ann Smith and Derrick Milligan, coach to Smith and Rabb. Milligan founded Team Dream, a triathlon training network for women of color. Panelists will discuss access to water and race, particularly during the morning panel discussion, 11:30 a.m. in the Kirkhof Center, Pere Marquette Room.

January 20, Day of Service and Solidarity

The MLK Jr. Day of Service and Solidarity is part of a national day of service where campuses across America gather together to serve and stand in solidarity with their communities in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Each year, this event is coordinated by the Office of Student Life: Civic Engagement in collaboration with the MLK Week Executive Planning Committee. Details and a link to RSVP are posted online.


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