University of Mississippi students, staff and community partners are spearheading efforts to promote community engagement and encourage a spirit of service in Lafayette County and Oxford during 2018 Martin Luther King Jr. Day observances.
The Lafayette-Oxford-University MLK Day of Service opening ceremony is set for 10:30 a.m. Jan. 15 at the Burns-Belfry Museum and Multicultural Center.
Program participants include Katrina Caldwell, UM vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement; Oxford Alderman Ulysses “Coach” Howell; Jeff Busby, president of the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors; and Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter. The Rev. C. Edward “CJ” Rhodes II, pastor of Mt. Helm Baptist Church of Jackson, will deliver the keynote address.
“I am very humbled and honored to be asked to deliver the keynote for such a historic occasion,” said Rhodes, the 23rd and youngest pastor of Jackson’s oldest historically black church. “As we look back on the achievements and sacrifices of Dr. King and others, this generation is challenged to do great things not just for themselves, but for others and the world as well.”
The son of famed civil rights attorney Carroll Rhodes Sr., Rhodes earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 2004. He continued his education at Duke Divinity School, where he served as vice president of the Black Seminarians Union in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Rhodes serves on the board of the Urban League of Greater Jackson, the Center for Ministry and the Mississippi Religious Leadership Conference, and is the former president of the Farish Street/Main Street Project. The recipient of numerous awards and recognitions, he also serves as host of “The CJ Rhodes Show” on WRBJ-97.7 FM and is author of “Thy Kingdom Come: Reflections on Pastoral and Prophetic Ministry.”
Following the keynote, awards will be presented to outstanding LOU volunteers in four categories: a community member and one student apiece from the Oxford School District, the Lafayette County School District and the university. All recipients are to be announced at the ceremony.
“The Office of Leadership and Advocacy is proud to work once again, side-by-side with so many excellent community partners,” said Hal Sullivan, coordinator of student affairs programs at UM. “Our goal, in the spirit of Dr. King, is to encourage reflection, action and redefine ‘service’ for this community.”
Other activities scheduled are:
Saturday (Jan. 13):
Second Annual Community Reading of “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” 5 p.m., Off-Square Books. Readers include members from the LOU community to acknowledge one of King’s most powerful works.
Monday (Jan. 15):
- Community breakfast, 8:30 a.m., Second Baptist Church
- Opening ceremony and keynote address, 10:30 a.m., Burns-Belfry Museum. Attendees also can participate in activities for children ages 3-10 and listen to recordings of oral histories that illustrate what life was like for north Mississippians during the civil rights era.
- Community showing of “The Long Walk Home,” 1:30 p.m., Burns Belfry Museum. A community conversation about the film, hosted by the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, follows. Kiese Laymon, UM professor of English, will facilitate discussion about the movie.
- Community give-back benefiting the Exchange Club Family Center, 4-9 p.m., Chili’s Bar & Grill.
- Community food drive benefitting the Food Pantry, all day, Abundant Truth Salt and Light Ministry in Taylor. Donations can be brought to any of the day’s events.
Ole Miss staff involved in planning of MLK Day of Service events expressed enthusiasm about participating in such a worthy cause.
“We are inspired by the members of the North Mississippi VISTA Project, who are collaborating with the Oxford and Lafayette school districts to offer lessons and activities on the civil rights movement,” said Laura Martin, assistant director of the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement. “In the spirit of lifting up agents of change, we encourage people in the LOU community to nominate deserving individuals for the MLK Service Awards.”
Community and campus participation is crucial to the success of the service observance, said Kaitlin Wilkinson, Volunteer Oxford director.
“This national day of service honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and commitment to transforming our nation through service to others,” she said. “The LOU MLK Day of Service offers community members a chance to engage in a variety of volunteer opportunities that are designed to give back to the community.”
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By Edwin B. Smith
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