Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Week

Your Voice, Your Vote

January 15-20, 2024

Melissa Harris-Perry

Melissa Harris-Perry, educator and author, gave the keynote address January 16 during Grand Valley's celebration of the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

She was also the keynote speaker for the 38th annual West Michigan community celebration on January 15 at Fountain Street Church. That event was presented via a partnership among Grand Valley, Davenport University and Grand Rapids Community College. 

Harris-Perry teaches and conducts research at Wake Forest University as the Maya Angelou Presidential Chair in the Department of Politics and International Affairs, the Department of Women and Gender Studies, the African American Studies Program, 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. She 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."

Harris-Perry earned a bachelor's degree Wake Forest University and a doctoral degree in political science from Duke University. She studied theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Harris-Perry previously taught at the University of Chicago, Princeton University and Tulane University. 

Melissa Harris-Perry portrait

Melissa Harris-Perry will give a presentation January 16, 10 a.m., in the Kirkhof Center.

TaRita Johnson

TaRita Johnson, senior vice president of Talent and Diversity at The Right Place in Grand Rapids, gave a presentation about the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during a presentation January 18 sponsored jointly by the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies and the Division of Inclusion and Equity.

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. 

Johnson served as a talent acquisition manager for corporate recruiting at Meijer. Prior to her work at Meijer, she was the vice president of College and University Relations at KeyBank, where she developed, executed and oversaw the bank’s college recruitment program for all lines of business. 


headshot of TaRita Johnson

TaRita Johnson will give a presentation on January 18, 5 p.m., in the DeVos Center.

Team Dream

Now 84 and a competitive swimmer, Ann Smith said it is a myth that "Black people can't swim." Smith said she started "to be an athlete" at age 72, training and competing in triathlons and swimming competitions. She is one half of the "Team Dream" documentary, which chronicles the journey of two Black women in Chicago who train for the National Senior Games. Read more about Team Dream's presentation on January 18.

The 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.

two older women in pool with goggles and swim caps on

There will be two Team Dream film screenings followed by panel discussions: January 18 at 11:30 a.m. (Kirkhof Center) and 7 p.m. (DeVos Center).

2023 Silent March

campus community members march on the Allendale campus reflecting on Dr. King's legacy; giving instructions at the start is Bobby Springer, co-chair of the planning committee

Page last modified May 21, 2024