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Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration will include reflections on the past, discuss current challenges and look to the future

Jan. 13, 2023, GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – West Michigan’s commemoration of the life and legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. will include reflections on the past, a hard look at our current challenges and a look to the future through scholarships.

Dr. Eddie Glaude Jr., an author and Princeton University educator, will provide the keynote address as part of the 37th annual community commemoration, a partnership between Davenport University, Grand Rapids Community College, and Grand Valley State University, with support from local sponsors.

The 2023 keynote is planned for 6 p.m. Jan. 16 at Fountain Street Church, 24 Fountain Street NE in Grand Rapids. The event is free and open to the public. Doors open at 5 p.m. Registration is available here

The event will also introduce area high school students receiving “Inherit the Dream” scholarships and include short welcomes from college presidents and community leaders.

The event will be among the first official duties for incoming GRCC President Charles Lepper, who officially starts on Monday. Lepper is planning to speak about Dr. King’s legacy with GVSU President Philomena V. Mantella and Davenport University President Richard J. Pappas.

The event will also introduce area high school scholarship recipients, musical selections from the West Michigan District AME Zion Choir, and blessings from the Rev. Nikki Smith, associate minister of Hilliard Chapel AME Zion Church and an associate professor in GRCC’s Criminal Justice Department.

Glaude, the keynote speaker, is an author, political commentator, public intellectual and passionate educator who examines the complex dynamics of the American experience.

Combining a scholar’s knowledge of history, a political commentator’s take on the latest events, and an activist’s passion for social justice, Glaude challenges all of us to examine our collective American conscience, "not to posit the greatness of America, but to establish the ground upon which to imagine the country anew."

His writings, including “Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul,” “In a Shade of Blue: Pragmatism and the Politics of Black America,” and his most recent, the New York Times bestseller, “Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for our Own.”

Glaude is the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor and chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton. He is also on the Morehouse College board of trustees.

He frequently appears in the media, as a columnist for TIME Magazine and as contributor on “Meet the Press” and on MSNBC programs.

Glaude also hosts Princeton’s AAS podcast, a conversation around the field of African American Studies and the Black experience in the 21st century.

He also is a former president of the American Academy of Religion.

Community sponsors for the event include: Corewell Health, Bethany Christian Services, Consumers Energy, Foster Swift, Warner Norcross and Judd, and the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.