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Community partners come together for Martin Luther King Jr. Day

SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN – Martin Luther King Jr. Day is Monday, and opportunities to participate in learning programs related to King and the civil rights movement will span Monday through Friday.

Lake Michigan College’s “Now is the Time!” The MLK Celebration Week will take place from Jan 18 through 22, featuring speakers, performances, round table discussions, a virtual food drive, historic and local trivia contests, and more.

Residents will have the opportunity to mark the occasion in different ways than in years’ past with LMC’s virtual programming taking the place of many in-person events.

The breakfast hosted at Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Niles to mark the date will not be taking place this year due to COVID-19 gathering precautions and mandates, but the Pastor Bryant Bacon said the church is supporting LMC’s programming.

“I’ve been here for 19 years. It’s been going on since before that,” Bacon said. “It was originally through the Niles chapter of the NAACP. We took it over the last four or five years. It’s been a community effort.”

Bacon said he looks forward to hosting the Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast next year.

“When the programming was forced to be virtual, COVID-19 actually liberated us from our geographical boundaries, and it made perfect sense to reach out and collaborate with all of our community,” said Barbara Craig, executive director of community impact and resource development at LMC. “Community impact and connections are important to us. We have a rich history here in Niles and Buchanan.”

The Niles History Center came to mind for Craig, as she said they had put together local stories from the early civil rights movement. The Niles District Library has also offered support of the event in the way of promotion, but also as providing related material to patrons.

“We ordered the book ‘May We Forever Stand: a history of the black national anthem’ by Imani Perry, which should arrive this week for the book discussion on Jan. 17,” said Andrea Burns, programming manager and gallery coordinator of the Niles District Library.

The library also purchased “The Best of Enemies” movie for the discussion on Jan. 22, as well as the original book, “The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South” by Osha Gray Davidson.

“We also have a display of books on Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in our rotunda and children’s department,” Burns said.

Working together with other area agencies, Craig said opportunities to support local businesses and learning opportunities were made available as well.

“In addition to the week-long programming, the website lists locally owned minority businesses and other resources,” Craig said. “Although we can’t have an in-person event, Vikki Gudas at the Buchanan Chamber emphasized the possibility for people to take a tour of the Underground Railroad Stops, provided by the Underground Railroad Museum in Cass.”

Craig said it was a community effort through partners and sponsors to bring together the week of offerings online.

“A large group of people were involved in the Martin Luther King Jr. programming this year, and less than half of them were LMC staffers,” Craig said. “The theme is ‘Now is the Time,’ taken from Dr. King’s letters from a Birmingham jail, and it really does seem like a good time for people and communities to talk, listen, learn and grow with each other.”

Information on the offered programming can be found at LakeMichiganCollege.edu/community/mlk.

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