The Governor’s Council will celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Macalester College on January 19, 2015. Since 1986, the Council has honored Dr. King by hosting a statewide event that features musical performances, awards and a keynote speaker.
American studies professor and Governor’s Council co-chair Duchess Harris helped to establish Macalester as the event site for 2015. Appointed by Dayton to the Council last year, Harris is serving for her second year as co-chair to the General Counsel and is the only co-chair with experience in planning the celebration.
“This year left me as the only co-chair who had done it before,” Harris said. “So the new General Counsel asked me to do it again.”
Last year the event was hosted by the Minnesota Historical Society, and because of the limited number of seats in the venue, space was an issue.
“One thousand people attended, and the auditorium was more like JBD, [with a capacity of] about 400,” Harris said. “Given that, I said, ‘okay, I know a space that will hold one thousand.’”
For Harris, bringing the Governor’s Council’s celebration to Macalester is not only a good fit in terms of how many people will be able to comfortably attend, but also in terms of an overlap of similar values.
“I feel like this is really emblematic of who Macalester is,” she said.
Because Martin Luther King, Jr. Day always falls over J-term, Macalester has not had any recent events celebrating Dr. King’s activism and leadership in the Civil Rights Movement.
“I’ve been here 20 years, and in my 20 years we’ve never had an MLK event,” Harris said. “Partly because we’re not in session…[But] just because we’re not in session doesn’t mean it can’t happen, and why not here?”
Community members and students are all invited to attend the main celebration and the following events.
“We’re hoping that it will be as multi-generational as possible,” Harris said. “[Mac] students can offer to volunteer…and we hope that if students are in town, that they come.”
“Students are welcome to come back to campus,” Chaplain Kelly J. Stone said. “We might as well come a back a day or two early and celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.”
The day itself will consist of a youth rally from 9-10 a.m., followed by the main celebration, where President Brian Rosenberg, Dayton and a yet-unannounced keynote speaker will give speeches in between musical performances. As one of those performances, students from Laura Jeffrey Academy, the all-girls middle school on Summit Avenue, will be singing with an adult choir.
Events including workshops hosted by the Department of Multicultural Life and a multifaith service the night of the 19th will also be open for students to attend.
One special highlight of this year’s celebration will be the performance of Sounds of Blackness, the Grammy-winning group founded by Macalester alums. They will also be recognized for their accomplishments during their visit.
Both Harris and Stone expressed excitement at connecting to the wider community through the celebration of Dr. King. Harris also expressed hope that the event will return to campus in years to come.
“It would be nice to think about [Macalester] being a home for the MLK event,” Harris said.