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The third Monday of January is set aside for Martin Luther King Day, or MLK Day, a federal holiday marking the civil rights leader’s birthday. Born on Jan. 15, 1929, King would be turning 93 were he alive.

A push to honor King’s legacy began soon after his 1968 assassination. President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983, and it was officially observed in all 50 states for the first time in 2000.

Commemorations will be held across the country, and Jackson County is no different.


Freedom Caravan

The Jackson County NAACP will lead a Freedom Caravan from Sylva to Western Carolina University on Monday, to celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. 

Vehicles will line up at 9:15 a.m. at Mark Watson Park and be escorted to reserved parking at WCU. Caravan riders will join the annual MLK Unity March, beginning at 11 a.m. at the fountain in the center of campus.

“We want to ‘climb the mountain’ in tribute to Dr. King and his legacy, and recognize the ongoing journeys to freedom, justice, and equity,” said Marsha Lee Baker, NAACP community coordination chair. “We invite churches, schools, organizations, businesses, families and other groups to fill their vehicles and join us in the Freedom Caravan.”

The annual MLK Unity March is hosted by WCU’s Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. This year’s theme is “Until justice rolls down like water.”

For information about the Freedom Caravan, leave a message at the NAACP branch at 331-1803 or email


A week-long celebration 

of MLK at WCU

Western Carolina University’s Martin Luther King Jr. weeklong celebration will be highlighted this year with speaker Charisse Burden-Stelly’s keynote address “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Tradition of Radical Blackness.”

Burden-Stelly is a 2021-22 visiting scholar in the Race and Capitalism Project at the University of Chicago and an assistant professor of Africana studies and political science at Carleton College. She is a scholar of critical Black studies, political theory and intellectual history, and the co-author of “W.E.B. Du Bois: A Life in American History.”

Her address will be 7 p.m. Wednesday, in the Bardo Arts Center Performance Hall.

Other MLK events include:


Monday, Jan. 17

The annual MLK Jr. Unity March will begin with poster making at 10 a.m. in the University Center’s multipurpose room, followed by the annual march starting at the fountain in the center of campus at 11 a.m.

The first of two service learning opportunities will take place, hosted by the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning. Time and location TBD.


Tuesday, Jan. 18 

The College of Business is hosting “David Tutt Talk: The Economics of Dr. King and the 1965 Voting Rights Act” at 5 p.m. in the UC multipurpose room. This talk will explore the economic thoughts of Martin Luther King Jr. and the economics of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. It will explore the economic power of voting in a democracy and its relationship to capitalism.


Wednesday, Jan. 19

Intercultural Affairs will host a keynote workshop titled “Martin Luther King Jr. and W.E.B. Du Bois Against U.S. Imperialism” at 10 a.m. in the UC multipurpose room. 

The presentation of Student Leadership Awards, followed by the keynote address, will take place at 7 p.m. in Bardo Arts Center Performance Hall. 


Thursday, Jan. 20

David Walton, director of WCU’s Global Black Studies program, will lead a workshop on “Strategies for Classroom Diversity and Inclusion.” It will take place at 5:30 p.m. in the UC multipurpose room.


Friday, Jan. 21

Intercultural Affairs will hold a meet and greet from 2:30 to 4 p.m. with artist Zeke Jennette, who won the Chancellor’s Award at the 53rd Annual Juried Undergraduate Exhibition for his painting, Oshun. Intercultural Affairs will show an exhibition of Jennette’s work in their gallery throughout January and host a meet and greet vernissage with him on Jan. 21. Light refreshments will be served.

Students will hold a pair of workshops. The first will be at 4 p.m. called “What I’ve Been Told,” followed by “Joy as Resistance” at 5:30 p.m. Both will be held in the UC multipurpose room.


Saturday, Jan. 22 

The second of two service learning opportunities will take place, hosted by the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning. Time and location to be determined.