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IOWA CITY — Iowa’s university and college campuses this month are planning a host of lectures, activities and events to honor Martin Luther King Jr. and his National Day of Service — including Iowa State University, featuring a lecture from a civil rights leader arrested for climbing a South Carolina State House pole in 2015 to remove its Confederate flag.
Bree Newsome will serve as Iowa State’s Martin Luther King Jr. keynote speaker Jan. 30 with a lecture titled, “Tearing Hatred from the Sky” in ISU’s Memorial Union. Newsome, a long-standing activist, garnered national attention in June 2015 when she — compelled by the murders of nine Black parishioners at Mother Emmanuel Church — climbed a state house pole to pull down its Confederate flag.
“Her arrest galvanized public opinion and led to the permanent removal of the flag,” according to the Iowa State Lecture Series. “As a recognized and celebrated voice on the topics of injustice and racial discrimination, Bree brings to light the importance of leadership development in building and sustaining social movements.”
Newsome’s lecture will be paired with Iowa State’s reveal of its 2023 “Martin Luther King Jr. Advancing One Community Awards,” given to students, employees, and campus organizations that have improved ISU’s “climate for underrepresented groups through volunteerism, engagement, scholarship, research, teaching and program development.”
It’s among a slew of events and activities planned across Iowa’s college and university campuses to honor the holiday — which lawmakers transformed into a day of service in 1994.
University of Northern Iowa on the National Day of Service — Monday — is hosting thousands of volunteers in its UNI-Dome to pack 80,000 bags of food for the Northeast Iowa Food Bank’s “BackPack program” — serving chronically hungry kids in its 16-county service area.
Iowa State on Monday is inviting community members of all ages to honor King with “creative activities” in its Memorial Union — including “freedom quilt squares” and coloring pages. The campus is collaborating with the City of Ames for a series of online and in-person lectures and music that day — followed by an ISU Campanile carillon concert titled, “Let Freedom Ring” on Jan. 18.
The University of Iowa’s Center for Human Rights at 12:45 p.m. Jan. 20 will host a hybrid Martin Luther King Jr. lecture from Ashley Howard, a UI assistant professor of African American history.
“Her research interests include the Black Midwest; social movements; and the global history of racial violence,” according to the UI center.
Coe College, starting this year, will close not only classes but staff offices to allow the entire Coe community to participate in a celebration of King’s life that includes music, lectures and community engagement.
And Mount Mercy University on Monday will continue its tradition of hosting an annual breakfast involving reflections on King and his work from institutional leaders, students, faculty and staff.
Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.
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