Martin Luther King Jr. week speakers announced

GVL / Courtesy - 
Kimberlé Crenshaw

Kimberlé Crenshaw

GVL / Courtesy – Kimberlé Crenshaw

Dylan Grosser

The Office of Multicultural Affairs has selected Kevin Powell and Kimberlé Crenshaw to give presentations for Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Week at Grand Valley State University starting Monday, Jan. 16.

Powell is the president of the organization “BK Nation” and an author of 11 books, some of them include “Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, and the Ghost of Dr. King” and “The Education of Kevin Powell: A Boy’s Journey Into Manhood.”

Crenshaw is a law professor at the University of California Los Angeles and Columbia Law School. She has coined the phrase “critical race theory” which has been used in many areas of study in the social sciences.

Bobby Jo Springer, associate director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, said the two presenters are both well-traveled and can speak on issues from a broader perspective.

“Both have really been grassroots individuals who can see what’s happening across this country because of their travels,” Springer said. “They see what’s happening and how it’s not just in one area, but it’s throughout this nation.”

The theme of Martin Luther King Jr. 2017 commemoration week is engaging and empowering community. Kin Ma, co-chair of the Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration week planning committee, said the speakers will talk about the theme, drawing from their personal and academic knowledge, but will also have some latitude to speak on what they want.

Powell will lead the silent march from Zumberge Hall to the Fieldhouse Arena at 1 p.m. Monday, Jan. 16, and will give his presentation at Fieldhouse Arena at 1:30 p.m. Crenshaw will give her presentation in the Grand River Room in the Kirkhof Center 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 18.

GVSU allows students the day off of classes on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and the Office of Multicultural Affairs has grown the celebration of MLK Jr.’s legacy into a week of events in recent years. A new event is being introduced this year called “Common Ground,” inviting New York Times Magazine writer Nikole Hannah-Jones and Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley to discuss “Race and the American Dream” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17 at the Eberhard Center.

“It’s a magnificent week,” Springer said. “(It’s) an opportunity for all of us to grow and to learn something that we didn’t know before.”

Springer said for him, Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration week is about sacrifice, dedication and the remembrance of a “really nasty time.”

“(It’s) a time that I take very personally because there’s a lot of sacrifices from Dr. King (and) from other people who were with him during the movement, black (and) white, who sacrificed, who died so that I might have the chance that I have today,” Springer said.

Springer said he believes in order to get things right in the present, one has to know what happened in the past. He said the selflessness of Martin Luther King Jr. is still remarkable to him, and his message of making America “live up to the promises that it made on paper” still lives on today.

“(He’s) just a remarkable individual. Some of his messages, some of his quotes, it’s like he’s still living with us today,” Springer said. “He’ll just go throughout time just because of the message that he delivered.”