Cheryl and Linda Brown were just children when their father joined twelve other families led by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in the Brown v. Board of Education lawsuit on behalf of their children. In the 55 years since the lawsuit the sisters have remained involved in a civil rights legacy.
On Jan. 14 they will headline UVU’s 16th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Commemoration with a presentation about the landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court on the Brown v. Board of Education case. The two-day celebration on Jan. 14-15 celebrates civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. and his work.
Each year the school works to re-examine the current state of civil rights and evaluate what needs to happen to continue King’s work. The focus of this year’s commemoration is “Realizing the Dream.”
Julie Nichols, English professor and coordinator of this year’s commemoration, hopes to make the point that King’s dream is not yet fully realized; in Utah, or anywhere else. “We are very proud to be bringing these women in,” said Nichols.
The commemoration was founded by former School of Humanities Dean Dr. William W. Cobb Jr. and the Multicultural Center in an effort to begin a discussion about the role of civil rights and diversity on campus and in the community.
Charles Holt, a Broadway entertainer, will be performing “Sole Music: A Journey Through an African-American Quilt” as the finale performance of the commemoration. While this main public appearance does not provide for much interaction with the star, Holt will also be meeting with students throughout the week to mentor them in performing arts and finding their passion in life.
The commemoration will also feature insights into civil rights stories that were in the same time period as King’s. A pair of films about racism in Utah titled “The Wisdom of Our Years: Stories of African American Utahans” and “Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Back Mormons” will be shown on Friday afternoon followed by a panel discussion.
Many of the presentations and discussions Thursday afternoon and all day Friday will be given by students or faculty interested in the different aspects of the civil rights struggle. Topics range from global human rights and equality in the workplace to examining the role of racism in the development of dance. The Multicultural Center will also be giving a presentation titled “Dare to Relate!” focusing on their experience in living with diversity.
With past keynote speakers including Martin Luther King Jr. biographers, colleagues in the civil rights movement and even King’s daughter, Yolanda King; it is no surprise that UVU will, again, host a commemoration worthy of King’s legacy.
“The commemoration has always believed that King’s message is as important today as it was in 1955 when he stood with Rosa Parks and others who protested segregated buses in Montgomery,” said Cobb in a written description of the commemoration. “King challenged complacency and that is what we must continue to do.”
All events are free and open to the public. See the commemoration program for more information on event times and locations as well as information on other events.