The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith has announced a slate of January events sponsored by the UAFS American Democracy Project and the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Association celebrating the legendary civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


“We look forward to continuing the UAFS tradition of celebrating MLK Week and commemorating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” said Dr. Williams Yamkam, assistant professor of political science and chair of the university’s chapter of the American Democracy Project. Drawing from the memorable words of Dr. King, Yamkam worked with UAFS administration and the MLK Community Association to establish this year’s theme, “Courage and Purpose: When Defining Moments Call for Courageous and Purposeful Actions.”


“From the theme came a series of events that will showcase the courage that certain local individuals and organizations have demonstrated in achieving a purpose that moves our community forward,” said Yamkam. “We hope to see a great turnout at these MLK-related events as we educate ourselves on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and as we keep our eyes on the purpose for which we should all strive to individually and collectively achieve.”


The activities include a parade, a prayer service, an awards banquet, a breakfast, educational sessions and a community panel discussion.


Celebratory events on the UAFS campus include:


Saturday, January 18


An Awards and Recognition Banquet, which includes the awarding of scholarships and citizen awards, will take place at 6:30 p.m. in the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center Reynolds Room at UAFS. Rodney Shepard, chief customer experience officer at Arvest Bank, will serve as the keynote speaker while Yuna Lee, 40/29 News anchor, will serve as the emcee. Tickets are $35, with reserved tables available for $400. Tickets are available by contacting St. James Missionary Baptist Church at 479-782-5756.


Monday, January 20:


The annual MLK Breakfast will begin at 7:30 a.m. in the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center Reynolds Room at UAFS. The free, public event will include a panel discussion focusing on the courageous actions taken by key local organizations to fulfill a worthy purpose in the community.


Panelists will include Marcus Johnson, president of Believe in Fort Smith; Emily Treadaway, county coordinator of The Call in Crawford and Sebastian Counties; Mireya Reith, executive director of the Arkansas United Community Coalition; Charolette Tidwell, founder of Antioch for Youth and Family; Rev. Sonna B. Key, founder of Police and Community Engagement (PACE). Dr. Daniel Maher, associate professor of sociology and anthropology, will serve as moderator.


For more information contact Yamkam at 479-788-7981 or williams.yamkam@uafs.edu.


Wednesday, January 22


A public lecture on a selection of courageous and purposeful moments in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s public life by Billy Higgins, associate professor of history, will take place at noon at the fireplace of the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center.


Thursday, January 23


A public presentation on the courage and purpose behind a major foster care effort in Arkansas by The Call in Arkansas will take place from 12:30-1:45 p.m. at the fireplace of the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center.


Friday, January 24


A presentation on the courage and purpose behind Antioch for Youth and Family by founder Charolette Tidwell will take place at noon at the fireplace of the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center.


Friday, January 17 – Friday, January 24


A collection of books and selected writings about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be on display at the UAFS Boreham Library.


Celebratory events in the Fort Smith community include:


Sunday, January 19


The Annual Ecumenical Service will take place at 6p.m.at St. James Missionary Baptist Church, 4916 High St. in Fort Smith. Pastor Tim Beasley of Central Christian Church will be the keynote speaker while Pastor Kevin Thompson of Community Bible Church will serve as the emcee. For more information contact St. James Missionary Baptist Church at 479-782-5756.


Monday, January 20


A parade hosted by the MLK Community Association will take place at 11:30 a.m. at the corner of 7th Street and Garrison Avenue in Fort Smith. Local performers will march as the parade moves through downtown Fort Smith. The Rev. Dr. U.C. Washington of Highland United Methodist Church will serve as the grand marshal. For more information contact St. James Missionary Baptist Church at 479-782-5756.


These events mark the ninth year UAFS has collaborated with the MLK Community Association to honor and celebrate Dr. King.


In October 1964 Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolence. He was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal posthumously. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, slated this year for Jan. 20, was established as a U.S. federal holiday in 1986.