Seeking unity in Eastern Iowa: Martin Luther King Jr. Day marches, town hall among other events

A painting of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. rests on a bookshelf in the reading room at the African American Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. The library is home to titles on black history, from sports personalities to jazz and African American literature. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
A painting of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. rests on a bookshelf in the reading room at the African American Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. The library is home to titles on black history, from sports personalities to jazz and African American literature. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS —Throughout the Corridor, community groups will gather Monday to honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day. With events from marches to church services to Day of Service volunteering, there are plenty of ways for people to get involved.

At both Coe College in Cedar Rapids and for the MLK Alliance group in Iowa City, there is an extra sense of unity and a desire to welcome in the wider community this year, organizers said. Both groups will host symbolic marches followed by programming open to the public.

At Coe, a student-led march across campus will be followed by programming and a Diversity Conference, featuring both faculty and alumni speakers who will address topics such as implicit bias and how to be an ally.

The conference has happened in the past, but this year the college is making a point to invite in the public.

“We want this to be something that the community can come and participate in and enjoy. We believe that everyone needs to be educated on the issues at hand,” said Steven Shelby, Coordinator of Multicultural Affairs in Coe’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. “We just want to honor Dr. King and show that we haven’t forgotten.”

In Iowa City, RaQuishia Harrington, Special and Underserved Populations Recreation Supervisor for the City of Iowa City’s Parks and Recreation Department, is helping lead an effort to bring together representatives from civic and social organizations across the community.

“The MLK Alliance is church groups, public and private entities, groups like the Black Voices Project, the Center for Worker Justice, the City of Iowa City, the Iowa City school district, Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense, the list goes on. It’s like every organization that you know that works with people,” Harrington said. “The whole point is that we’re marching together, standing on the words of Dr. King and moving forward to address all sorts of injustices and inequalities.”

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She said the idea for a joint event came after members from the different groups decided they needed to work together more cohesively to address inequality and social justice issues in Johnson County.

“A lot of us work in little silos throughout the year. This was an opportunity to show we do stand together, and we’re moving forward to try to continue to make change,” she said. “Every year we have our usual MLK celebration at a school or somewhere on the southeast side. This year we’re trying to be a little more inclusive, to collectively have something with unity.”

The day will start with a Color of Unity March from Faith Academy, 1030 Crosspark Ave., to Grant Wood Elementary School, 1930 Lakeside Dr., followed by programming and a community town hall. She said the hope is relationships and partnerships fostered through the event can continue in months to come.

The day also will be a chance to center youth voices. At an Change Makers Youth Day at the Iowa City Robert A. Lee Recreation Center today, area youth will have a chance to share their feelings about issues impacting them and the community. Their thoughts will then be presented to the community and nonprofit leaders at Monday’s town hall.

“We’re going to take the information we get from the youth and flip it and present it to the adults on Monday,” Harrington said.

She said those that can’t attend the meeting are welcome to contact her to learn about ways to get involved in the community throughout the year. She can be reached at raquishia-harrington@iowa-city.org or 319-356-5100.

“It’s a fresh start for the year,” she said. “And we plan to continue to have these conversations.”

Martin Luther King Jr. Day events in the Corridor

African American Museum of Iowa free admission, 55 12th Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday. In addition to free admission to the “If Objects Could Talk” and “Endless Possibilities” exhibits all day, the museum will have free tabletop activities for elementary school-aged children from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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Coe College March, Celebration and Diversity conference, 1220 First Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids; march starts at 9 a.m., conference starts at 1 p.m. Monday. Students, faculty, staff and community leaders will hold a symbolic march from Phifer Commons in upper Gage Memorial Union to Kesler Lecture Hall in Hickok Hall, followed by several short remembrances, MLK montage videos and gospel music. The Diversity Conference at Hickok Hall will feature speakers reflecting on social justice issues and Dr. King’s legacy. Breakout sessions will be held at 1:15 and 2:15 p.m., with keynote speaker Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker at 3:15 p.m. Find speaker details at coe.edu/coenews.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 1340 Third Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids; 4 p.m. panel discussion, 5:30 p.m. meal, 6:30 p.m. celebration, Monday. From 4 to 5:15 p.m., Anne Carter will moderate a panel discussion, “Speaking Up and Speaking Out: Challenging Systemic Racism in Cedar Rapids,” with panelists Jasmine Almoayed, Rod Dooley, Betty Kiboko, Brian Pingel and Dr. Ruth White. At 5:30 p.m. there will be a meal and fellowship. At 6:30 p.m. the annual celebration begins with music from area choirs and an address by keynote speaker Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker, who will talk about systemic racism in Cedar Rapids. The “Dr. Percy and Lileah Harris ‘Who is My Neighbor’ award for diligent work for justice in Linn County will be awarded to Ellen and Allen Fisher.

Mount Mercy build a care package event, Mount Mercy University Center, 1330 Elmhurst Dr. NE, Cedar Rapids; 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday. Faculty, staff and students are invited to assemble a care package to benefit those in need in the Cedar Rapids community. Care packages will consist of a note, toothbrush, toothpaste, pair of socks, chap stick, deodorant and a snack.

Movie night and public sector job fair, Cedar Rapids Public Library, 450 Fifth Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids; 4 to 7:30 p.m. Monday. The Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission, African American Museum of Iowa and the Cedar Rapids Public Library present this two-part event. From 4 to 5:30 p.m. in the library lobby, government agencies will be available to discuss employment opportunities and employment criteria such as educational levels and skills to better prepare for public sector jobs. Representatives from the City of Cedar Rapids, Cedar Rapids Police Department, Cedar Rapids Fire Department, Cedar Rapids Community School District, Kirkwood Community College, the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the 6th Judicial District Department of Corrections will be present. After the fair, from 5:30 to 7:45 p.m., feature film “Hidden Figures” will screen in the Whipple Auditorium.

Service Above Self Awards, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel & Convention Center, 350 First Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids; noon to 1 p.m. Monday. The Rotary Club of Cedar Rapids will present awards to one senior from eight Cedar Rapids-area high schools selected as best exemplifying the values of Rotary and the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. within their respective school, neighborhood, faith, family and work community. A $100 donation also will be made to a local nonprofit in the honoree’s name. Tickets to attend are $12 including salad bar or $17 with lunch buffet. Register to attend by email at crdowntownrotary@gmail.com.

CORALVILLE

Public reading of “I Have a Dream” speech, Coralville Public Library, 1401 Fifth St., Coralville; 5 p.m. Monday. Readers will include representatives from local governments, library partners and community groups. Throughout the day, library patrons will be invited to share their dreams for a more just world, which will be displayed at the library throughout the month. The library is also hosting a display of historical civil rights materials on loan from the Eric Morton Civil Rights Papers at the Department of Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Iowa Libraries.

DECORAH

Ronald Rochon lecture, Luther College, Valders Hall of Science, Room 206, 700 College Drive, Decorah; 7 p.m. Monday. Ronald Rochon, provost at the University of Southern Indiana, will give a public address, “From Revolt to Revolution: For Whom the Bell Tolls and Why We Can’t Wait.”

IOWA CITY

Change Makers Youth Day Celebration, Robert A. Lee Recreation Center, 220 S. Gilbert St., Iowa City; noon to 4 p.m. today (1/13). Students in grades 5 to 12 are invited to this day of activities, discussions, snacks and more. A basketball skills challenge will follow from 4 to 6 p.m.

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Social justice film and service project, Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St., Iowa City; 2 to 3 p.m. today (1/13). The event starts with a collection of short films focused on black history, racial equity and social justice. Following the films, families can work on service projects, including decorating cookies for the Free Lunch Program, writing postcards to elected officials urging action for racial equality and assembling care packages for the homeless. Families are invited to bring a non-perishable food item for the Crisis Center food bank.

Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration Day, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, 411 S. Governor St., Iowa City; 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Monday. Community guest speakers, praise dancers and musical selections will be featured.

Color of Unity March, Day of Service and Call to Action Community Town Hall, Faith Academy, 1030 Crosspark Ave., Iowa City and Grant Wood Elementary School, 1930 Lakeside Dr., Iowa City; 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday. The day will start with the Color of Unity march from 9 to 10 a.m. starting at Faith Academy and ending at Grant Wood Elementary School, led by grand marshals Iowa City Council members Kingsley Botchway and Mazahir Salih. A bus will be available to take marchers back to their cars. After the march, day of service activities will take place at the school with volunteer opportunities, entertainment, resource information, care package assembly and an ‘I Have a Dream’ vision wall. A Call to Action Community Town Hall Meeting will end the day, also at the school, with a donation drive from noon to 1:30 p.m. Activities are being coordinated by the MLK Alliance Group, made up of local nonprofits, individuals, and public and private service organizations.

Morning Glory unity prayer and reflection service, New Creations International Church, 2929 E. Court St., Iowa City; 9 a.m. Monday. This annual interfaith service is sponsored by the Consultation of Religious Communities.

UNIVERSITY OF IOWA

The UI is hosting a series of events throughout the week. Find more details at mlk.uiowa.edu

University of Iowa Day of Service, Kick off in the Iowa Memorial Union, Hubbard Commons, 125 N. Madison St., Iowa City; 9 a.m. to noon Monday. In case of weather-related postponement, makeup day is Jan. 20. UI students, faculty, staff and Iowa City community members are invited to volunteer for this Day of Service. Check in is between 8 and 8:30 a.m. at the IMU, where participants will be assigned a volunteer location, then volunteer from 9 a.m. to noon. A celebration and free lunch will follow at the IMU. Register at http://bit.ly/dayofservice18.

Che “Rhymefest” Smith Keynote Address, Iowa Memorial Union Main Lounge, 125 N. Madison St., Iowa City; 7 p.m. Tuesday (1/16)

Update on diversity, equity and inclusion by the Chief Diversity Office, Iowa Memorial Union Main Lounge, 125 N. Madison St., Iowa City; 5 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday (1/17)

Why is it always about race? When neutrality is not the answer, Iowa Memorial Union, Lucas Dodge Room, 125 N. Madison St., Iowa City; 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (1/17)

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Four Movements Toward Freedom: A Creative Showcase, Hancher Auditorium, Strauss Hall, 141 E. Park Road, Iowa City; 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday (1/18)

MLK Lecture by Kevin Lindsey, Boyd Law Building, room 235, Melrose Ave. and Byington Road, Iowa City; 12:30 to 2 p.m. Jan. 26

MOUNT VERNON

CARE Conference, Mount Vernon High School, 731 Palisades Road SW, Mount Vernon; 8:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. Monday. The Connect, Absorb, Respond, Empower conference is open to the public and will feature keynote speaker Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker, followed by community speakers who will address topics from identity and activism to civil rights to addressing biases to Iowa’s African American history. Details at hs.mountvernon.k12.ia.us/uploads/4/1/2/8/41286333/care_conference_-_1-15-2018.pdf.

Cornell College

Day of Service, Thomas Commons, Cornell College, 600 First. St. SW, Mount Vernon; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday. Make items to donate to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

Vigil, Thomas Commons and Allee Chapel; 5 p.m. Monday. Vigil begins in Thomas Commons and culminates in Allee Chapel.

Marathon reading, Thomas Commons; 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday. Community members will read Dr. King’s address to Cornell College during his 1962 visit.

Movie, Thomas Commons, Hall-Perrine room; 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday. View a movie about the 1967 Detroit Riots, followed by a discussion.

ICL Radio Tribute to Dr. King, Zamora’s Lounge; 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Join the Social Justice Initiative to hear what social justice means to community members.

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Refugee Simulation, Richard and Norma Small Multi-Sport Center; 9 a.m. to noon. Participants will go through a simulation of a family experiencing warlike conditions, making the decision to leave their home country for an industrialized country nearby, and trying to tackle the challenges of living in that country. This event is for students only; all other Cornell MLK Week events are open to the public.

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