The life and legacy of the late Martin Luther King Jr. will be commemorated in events in and around Naperville over the next several days.
One day doesn’t suffice at North Central College, where a week of activities is planned each year for observance of the anniversary of the civil rights icon’s birth. This year’s theme is The Power of Words.
Dorothy Pleas, the college’s director of multicultural affairs, heads the MLK Week Committee, which is comprised of faculty and staff who determine each year’s theme.
“We come together starting in the summer and make decisions about what we want the theme of the week to be,” Pleas said. “We were thinking about the words of Dr. King, and how he used them to bring about change.”
King spoke on the downtown Naperville campus in November 1960, appearing during a regular chapel service in Pfeiffer Hall. Titled “Stride Toward Freedom,” the speech came as a pattern of civil resistance was making its way across the U.S. and several years before federal legislation would codify some of the principal aims in the Civil Rights Movement, of which King was a key figure.
Events began Friday, when North Central opened The Chicago Freedom Movement Photography Exhibit, featuring the work of photographer and attorney Bernard J. Kleina. Shown in some three dozen other U.S. cities already, the collection spotlights King’s Chicago marches in support of open housing, events tainted by “massive violence,” he later would say.
“This is a terrible thing,” King said after he was struck by a rock thrown at him in Chicago’s Gage Park in the summer of 1966. “I have been in many demonstrations all across the South, but I can say that I have never seen, even in Mississippi and Alabama, mobs as hostile and as hate-filled as I’ve seen in Chicago.”
Kleina’s exhibit, which also includes images of Coretta Scott-King, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young, Al Raby, Dick Gregory, Mahalia Jackson, Ralph Abernathy and others, will remain on display in the college’s Schoenherr Gallery through March 2. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.
The Chicago Sinfonietta will perform its popular annual tribute to King at 3 p.m. Sunday in Wentz Concert Hall at the Fine Arts Center, 171 E. Chicago Ave. Tickets to the performance are nearly all sold out; call 630-637-7469 or visit www.northcentralcollege.edu/showtix for information.
On Monday, the federal holiday set to observe King’s birthday, the college’s annual prayer breakfast for students, faculty, staff and alumni will feature 2004 North Central graduate NeAngela Marshall, now an assistant state’s attorney in the domestic violence division of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office. Marshall’s message, “Use Your Words!,” echoes the theme of the week’s events.
At Benedictine University in Lisle, the 19th annual Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast will feature speaker Timothy W. Goodly, senior vice president of human resources for CNN Worldwide, Turner Broadcasting System Inc.
A frequent presenter on topics of organizational development, workplace diversity and employee-employer relations, Goodly is responsible for the development of human resources policies and procedures for TBS’ domestic entertainment, animation, young adult and news networks and businesses.
Scheduled from 8 to 9:30 a.m. on the second floor of the Krasa Student Center, the yearly breakfast honors King’s legacy and celebrates diversity and is one of the largest events of its kind in the state. More than 500 community leaders and residents attend each year. A portion of the proceeds benefits the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Fund at Benedictine and College of DuPage, which cohosts the breakfast with Benedictine. For more information and tickets, call the McAninch Arts Center at 630-942-4000 or visit www.cod.edu/MLK. Tickets are $25 each, and a limited number will be available at the door.
Later on Monday, award-winning journalist and author Edward Gilbreath will discuss his new book, “Birmingham Revolution: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Epic Challenge to the Church,” at North Central, appearing at 6:30 p.m. in Koten Chapel at Kiekhofer Hall, 329 E. School St. The book explores the impact of King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” 50 years after its publication, showing its profound implications for today’s society.
Grammy Award honoree Common will speak at the keynote event at North Central, set for 7 p.m. Tuesday in Pfeiffer Hall.
After collaborating with renowned rapper and producer Kanye West on the albums “Be” and “Finding Forever,” Common in 2007 launched the Common Ground Foundation. The philanthropy focuses on the empowerment and development of urban youth in the U.S.
Described as the king of conscious hip-hop, Common will deliver remarks Tuesday evening titled “Greatness!” A question-and-answer period will follow his talk. Admission is free for North Central students, faculty and staff with a college ID. Tickets for the public cost $10 and can be purchased at northcentralcollege.edu/showtix or by calling 630-637-7469.
A professional musician will join North Central faculty members for a noon panel discussion on Thursday, focusing on the use of music as a means of protest. Panelists Stephen Maynard Caliendo will discuss The Clash, Richard Guzman will speak about Ray Charles, and Jonathon Kirk will discuss Nina Simone. Chicago hip-hop artist and community activist FM Supreme will perform and speak about Public Enemy. Slated to last from noon to 2 p.m., the discussion will take place in Thrust Theatre in Meiley-Swallow Hall. Admission is free.
Celebrated rock, gospel and blues artists Mike Farris and the Roseland Rhythm Revue will perform selections that illustrate their reinterpretation of black gospel from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday at The Union, 129 W. Benton Ave. Tickets cost $10 in advance in person, via phone and online, with a $2 surcharge added to online sales. Admission at the door on the night of the performance will cost $12, but North Central students who come to the box office with valid ID will enter for free.