Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses crowd at the Illinois Rally for Civil Rights in Chicago, Illinois on June 21, 1964. 

Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Day will be recognized by East Carolina University through events set to take place Jan. 23 through Jan. 28 as well as the city of Greenville, North Carolina, with its annual Community Unity Event.

Alex Dennis, assistant director of ECU’s Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement (CLCE) said the CLCE will host the MLK Day of Service projects on Jan. 23. Students can go on the event’s Engage page and go to GivePulse to sign up Jan. 19 through Jan. 22 for service projects or other events the Ledonia Wright Cultural Center (LWCC) plans to host.

“Typically MLK Day of Service would be our largest (Day of Service) that we would offer, however with COVID(-19), obviously we had to scale things back and change how we do things. We usually have a big kickoff event or the speaker and breakfast and all that stuff had to be cancelled,” Dennis said. “We typically do this on MLK Day but we've had to change that as well because the semester starts a week later.”

Dennis said students can serve in-person or virtually. He said there will be a virtual Diversity Dialogue Series on Jan. 25 at 3 p.m., the MLK Day speaker, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, who will speak virtually on Jan. 26 at 6:30 p.m. and on Jan. 28 Celebrating Sycamore Hill will be hosted at 4:30 p.m. These three events will be hosted by the LWCC, according to Dennis.

There is an estimated number of 80 to 100 students who are to attend the Day of Service, Dennis said, and there are multiple sites individuals can choose from. He said people can either sign up to serve at the Garden Centers or there will be three sites hosted in the Main Campus Student Center.

“All of these sites are capped at just ten students, so we're keeping it under the cap that the university has set for departmental and campus activities and programs,” Dennis said.

It brings excitement to the university and staff at the CLCE to have these limited opportunities for students, according to Dennis. He said students miss having those close interactions they’re used to and are excited to be able to serve ECU and the community while they remain safe and precautious of the pandemic. Dennis said students’ safety is the number one priority for these MLK Day events.

When students check in for their service events on Jan. 23, Dennis said they will receive a small bag with snacks, a mask and hand sanitizer. If a student has signed up for an event, but does not feel well on the day of, they should stay home, Dennis said.

“MLK’s message was all about unity and bringing people together and serving the community. I think now more than ever, we (individuals) need to take that message to heart and live up to that message,” Dennis said. “Getting out into the community and serving others is a great way to kick off this semester and it also lines up very nicely with Black History Month coming up in February.”

Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce President Kate Teel said this year the city will host its 24th annual Community Unity event virtually. She said the event is usually held as an in-person community breakfast.

Teel said the virtual event will be Jan. 18 from 8 to 9 a.m. and will be streamed through the Chamber’s Facebook page as well as the city’s public access channel, Channel 9.

“We have our keynote speaker that will provide about a 30 minute address as well as some local leadership from sponsors, a message from the mayor, and a message from the Chamber,” Teel said.

In the past, Teel said usually 300 to 400 people attend the event, but she anticipates participation to be higher this year due to the virtual format which allows the option for people outside of the city to tune in.

More details on the keynote speaker and the event’s schedule can be found on the Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce website.

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