Northwest Missouri State University will honor civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. with its annual Celebration Week, which begins with a service day and its annual peace brunch.

“The purpose of MLK week this year is to provide educational history on Dr. King. We want to provide information on Dr. King that you may not know,” Dr. Justin Mallett, Northwest’s director of diversity and inclusion, said. “This is a great week of events, starting with all of us coming together and giving back through community service and then showing a collective, united voice at the Peace Brunch; and finishing the week by having Stephon Ferguson share stories of Dr. King and reciting his works will give all of the education we need to honor Dr. King.”

Northwest students, staff and faculty are invited to participate in service projects between 8:30 and 10:30 am, Monday, January 21 at a variety of local locations. Participants will visit Lettuce Dream, the Children and Family Center of Northwest Missouri, Parkdale Manor, Oak Pointe and the Nodaway County Senior Center.

All other events are free and open to the public, beginning with the university’s eighth annual peace brunch from 11 am to 1 pm, January 21 in the JW Jones Student Union Ballroom. A free hot breakfast buffet will be served and the brunch will feature Pamela Westbrooks-Hodge, a 1991 Northwest alumna, as its keynote speaker.

A native of St. Louis, Westbrooks-Hodge is employed at Edward Jones leading Enterprise Risk Management and Regulatory Risk Management within its Legal and Compliance Division and she advocates for fair and equitable tax-supported education for children in the St. Louis region. In addition to her degree from Northwest, she holds a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Missouri – St. Louis and certifications in financial, operational and information systems auditing. She credits the project management and planning skills she cultivated at Northwest as a program chair for the Alliance of Black Collegians, among other activities, for her success as a business leader.

Northwest’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Week continues with two more presentations centered on the life and legacy of King.

The public is invited for a screening and discussion of “King in the Wilderness” a film looking at the final chapter in the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. beginning at 6:30 pm, Wednesday, January 23 in the student union boardroom. The documentary looks at the conflicted leader who was facing criticism from both sides of the political spectrum. It provides a new perspective of King, his doctrine of non-violence and internal philosophical struggles prior to his 1968 assassination.

The week’s events conclude at 6:30 pm, Thursday, January 24 with Stephon Ferguson and his performance, “MLK Reborn,” in the Charles Johnson Theater at the Olive DeLuce Fine Arts Building. From the pulpit of Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL, to the Teatro Lope de Vega in Madrid, Spain, Ferguson has raised brows, brought chills and tears and aroused the conscious of people of all ages, cultures and backgrounds by delivering precise, pitch-perfect renditions of King’s speeches and sermons. His mission is to share his gift with the world and help continue King’s legacy by not only performing King’s words, but also educating people about philosophies of love, nonviolence, peace and unity to help bring about a positive change.

Although Martin Luther King, Jr. was born January 15, 1929, his birthday has been observed as a national holiday on the third Monday of each January since 1986.

In observance of the holiday, Northwest will not have classes on Monday, January 21 and all university offices will be closed.

King’s effort to lead the American civil rights movement during the 1950s and ‘60s included the 1963 March on Washington. There, he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, which dramatically raised public consciousness about civil rights and established King as a world figure. He was assassinated April 4, 1968, in Memphis, TN.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Week events at Northwest are sponsored by Northwest’s office of diversity, equity and inclusion.