Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Week

Theme: #NowIsTheTime / January 20-25, 2020

Yusef Salaam gives a presentation

The keynote speakers during the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Commemoration Week urged the campus community to be active in their communities and speak up when injustice is at the forefront.

Yusef Salaam was 15 years old, he was accused and convicted of attacking and raping a woman who was jogging in New York City's Central Park. Salaam was one of five teenagers wrongly convicted of the crime; they collectively became known as the Central Park Five. Salaam spoke January 20 in the Fieldhouse about his time in prison and how it shaped his life.

He talked about having "comeback power," and told the audience everyone is born with a purpose.

"I went to jail and came out with a college degree. I was in the belly of the beast and I still made something of myself," he said. "Now is the time for us to realize our greatness. I know that we were born with a purpose."

Like King, Salaam encouraged audience members to be active in their communities and speak up when injustice is at the forefront.

"Our task isn't necessarily to complete everything that we need to do. But our task is to participate in the process," he said.

Learn more about Salaam's presentation, including a video.


Cedric Taylor said he became a documentarian within his discipline of sociology because of the "power to touch hearts and change minds."

Taylor's documentary about the Flint water crisis, "Nor Any Drop to Drink," served as a base for his presentation in the Kirkhof Center January 22. 

An associate professor of sociology at Central Michigan University, Taylor said King's legacy gives great insight into the reasons behind the water crisis, and romanticizing the civil rights leader as the man who delivered the "I Have a Dream" speech does him a disservice.

Taylor said King laid the groundwork in the 1960s for doing work to combat what sociologists now call environmental racism. And it was environmental racism that led to the water crisis in Flint, he said and cited high poverty rates, a segregated population and an emergency manager who made decisions for the city's leaders and residents.

man at podium screens on either side

"It's that mindset that the people don't have the authority or the knowledge of their own experiences, they are too uneducated to know what's best for their families," Taylor said.

Learn more about Taylor's presentation, including a video.


The theme of the 2020 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Week was #NowIsTheTime. The phrase comes from King's 1963 speech, "I Have a Dream," delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

In the speech, King asks for urgency in righting wrongs against Blacks from slavery to the Jim Crow era.

He said: "Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children."