MLK day of service participants volunteer on the High Bridge Trail
MLK day of service participants volunteer on the High Bridge Trail

Returning Longwood students eager to begin classes will start the semester with a week of events celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that will challenge and shape their lives.

Beginning the week with an annual day of service, students are challenged to join community members to complete a service project in the community by day’s end. Hundreds of students join in the yearly effort

"There is no more fitting way to honor the legacy of Dr. King than engaging with our own community and giving back to those less fortunate," said Courtney Addison, associate director of diversity and inclusion. "It’s the essence of citizen leadership: recognizing a need for change in your own community and getting involved in a positive way. All of these little projects add up, and the more students who get involved, the more we knit our campus and our town together. Lasting change comes in increments--everyday people talking and organizing and working in their communities."

The week will be punctuated by a keynote address by internationally renowned author, activist and educator Joy DeGruy, whose landmark book Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing pushed boundaries in the understanding of the African-American experience in America. In presentations to students, she forces them to consider other viewpoints and challenges deep-seeded beliefs and prejudices while explaining the adaptive survival behaviors that developed in African-American communities after slavery ended--behaviors that persist today.

"MLK Week is not only a time for service and action, but for deep reflection on our place in our communities and the world," said Addison. "It’s so critical for our students to be able to think critically about the world around them, but also to turn that lens back on their own lives. Joy DeGruy is well-versed at taking students out of their comfort zones and giving them the necessary tools to make positive change in their own lives."

DeGruy will deliver the MLK keynote address on Thursday, Jan. 21, at 4 p.m. in Jarman Auditorium. Previous keynote speakers have included internationally recognized speaker Tim Wise and former football coach Herman Boone, profiled in the film Remember the Titans.

MLK Week will also feature a student march and candlelight vigil at Moton Museum on Tuesday evening, Jan. 19, and the Common Ties Community Reception on Friday, Jan. 22. The week will culminate with a trip for students to the International Civil Rights Center & Museum in Greensboro, N.C. Details about the events can be found at blogs.longwood.edu/longwoodmlk.

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