UNC Charlotte honors the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

MLK observance
Monday, January 11, 2021

UNC Charlotte honors the legacy of slain civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through a series of events that begin on Monday, Jan. 18, the day King’s birthday will be observed nationally. 

“UNC Charlotte’s long-standing tradition of honoring Dr. King continues, although many events this year are virtual to accommodate COVID-19 protocols and the online learning and work formats that students and employees are experiencing,” said Cheryl Waites Spellman, special assistant to the chancellor for diversity and inclusion. “The University invites students, faculty and staff to explore the engaging and thought-provoking opportunities available that are designed to deepen our diversity, equity and inclusion understanding, and help us make progress on our personal social justice journeys. As we learn and take action as individuals, we grow stronger and more compassionate as a campus community.” 

2021 MLK Day activities, which include campus and community-wide events, are:   

2021 YMCA of Greater Charlotte MLK Holiday Celebration

9-10 a.m., Monday, Jan. 18

Join thousands of Charlotte-area community members and the YMCA of Greater Charlotte for its 27th annual MLK Day observance as it welcomes civil rights activist, global humanitarian and political leader Martin Luther King III, the eldest son of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, for a virtual discussion focused on justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. This event is free and will air on Facebook live.

United Way of Central Carolinas Racial Equity 21-Day Challenge

Monday, Jan. 18, to Monday, Feb.15

UNC Charlotte has signed on as a supporter of the United Way's Racial Equity 21-Day Challenge, a month-long series of programs and activities that support individual and community journeys of learning and self-discovery around issues of race, power, privilege and leadership. Sign up to receive daily emails starting on MLK Day that include readings, videos, podcasts and ways to take action. Participants are encouraged to reflect through a daily journal and discussion guide. Topics include racial identity, intersectionality, housing affordability and homelessness, legal system inequity and allyship.

The Challenge culminates on Tuesday, Feb. 23, with a virtual Racial Equity Town Hall, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., featuring keynote speaker Eddie Moore Jr., a racial justice educator who co-created the Challenge concept, which is active in dozens of cities throughout the United States. Learn more about local commitment and Challenge sponsors.

UNC Charlotte's MLK Challenge (former MLK Day of Service)

9 a.m.-1 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 23

Participate in virtual and in-person service opportunities hosted by the Office of Leadership & Community Engagement. Register to participate on Niner Engage by Friday, Jan. 22. (Volunteers will be contacted to be matched with activities.) 

In-person opportunities include a street cleanup with Westside Community Land Trust, a nonprofit that organizes and empowers the West Charlotte community to preserve and develop their neighborhoods to the benefit of low income residents as well as the neighborhoods as a whole in the face of rapid reinvestment and subsequent displacement of long-time residents; and beautifying gardens with The Harvest Center, a transformation community established to provide physical and spiritual help to non-chronic homeless individuals and families.

Virtual opportunities include writing encouraging letters for teachers with Classroom Central, which equips students in need by collecting and distributing free school supplies to teachers; creating bookmarks for students with Promising Pages, a nonprofit that collects new and donated books and shares them with children living in the Charlotte Area Book Desert; and writing encouraging notes for residents at Hope Haven, which provides life skills for chemically dependent adults and families within a supportive residential environment leading to independence.

UNC Charlotte’s Annual MLK Celebration

3:30-4:30 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 26

Join Chancellor Sharon L. Gaber as she welcomes keynote speaker Theodore Shaw, Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law, UNC School of Law, and director of the Center for Civil Rights, for a virtual presentation, “The Real Dr. King: Humanitarian. Bridge Builder. Activist.” Attendees must pre-register to receive streaming information for the Zoom event.

Shaw will discuss topics such as King's thoughts on policing people of color, affirmative action, philosophy of non-violence and putting people in touch with humanity, as well as current issues such as the assault on democracy, the deep divisions we see and demonizing one another.

“Ted Shaw has done extensive research and has published many book chapters, articles and essays on civil rights,” said Kim Turner, associate dean and director of the Office of Identity, Equity and Engagement, which is hosting the event. “Among his many areas of expertise are race and law, civil rights and discrimination and access to justice.”