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MLK Week Includes Award to D.C. Educator, Service and Teaching

The logo for MLK Week. Pictured here is Martin Luther King Jr. speaking to an audience with the words "LET FREEDOM RING" in bold, black letters.

January 15, 2014 – Georgetown will celebrate the life and legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Jan. 19-25 with events that include presentation of its 2014 John Thompson Jr. Legacy of a Dream Award to Lecester Johnson during the Let Freedom Ring musical celebration at the Kennedy Center.

The university will honor Johnson at the Kennedy Center event Jan. 20 for her leadership and advocacy for adult education and workforce development. Grammy Award winner Dionne Warwick is scheduled to perform at the event, which will be webcast.

The week also includes academic, service and spiritual events as well as curriculum tied to the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

“This is an opportunity for us to honor the legacy of Dr. King, and to recognize the extraordinary contributions of one of our local heroes for her work to advance the dream of Dr. King in our city,” said Georgetown President John J. DeGioia. "Dr. King and Ms. Johnson exemplify for us what it means to be women and men for others, and to strive for the betterment of our whole human family."

Academy of Hope Exhibit

Johnson is the executive director of Academy of Hope, a nonprofit that focuses on basic education and adult literacy services for men and women, age 18 and up, who can read on at least a sixth-grade level. The academy also prepares individuals for the GED and transition into post-secondary education.

Georgetown is partnering with the Academy of Hope for a year, as it did with its last Legacy of a Dream award winner.

Throughout the week, information about Johnson’s work at Academy of Hope will be on display in historic Healy Hall

“The display is really a way to look at current work being done in our communities and as a recommitment by the university to the ideals that formed the civil rights movement and Dr. King’s legacy,” says Rev. Bryant Oskvig, co-chair of Georgetown’s MLK Planning Committee and director of the university’s Protestant chaplaincy. “It also shows that we’re paying attention to what’s happening in our city and that we want to celebrate people who are doing good work.”

Life Pieces to Masterpieces

Artwork from the nonprofit led by 2013 John Thompson Legacy of a Dream Award recipient Mary Brown will be on display in Bunn ICC Galleria.

Brown’s nonprofit, Life Pieces to Masterpieces, provides opportunities for African-American boys and young men, ages 3-25, tthrough a curriculum that promotes learning languages, expression through artwork, meditation, leadership, discipline and the importance of giving and loving.

Life Pieces students created the artwork that will be displayed on campus.

Classes to Incorporate March

About 15 faculty members have added elements of the March on Washington to their curriculum through the Teach the March initiative, coordinated by Georgetown’s Center for Social Justice, Research, Teaching and Service (CSJ).

“In order to deepen and broaden the impact of the celebration, the MLK planning committee and provost's office encourage faculty to ‘Teach the March’ in their classes during the first month of the Spring 2014 semester and creatively incorporate the March on Washington into their curricula,” Provost Robert Groves said in a letter to Georgetown faculty.

He noted that last year faculty representing every school at Georgetown, including SFS-Q in Doha, Qatar, taught King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” in their classes.

This year, Lahra Smith’s African Studies Capstone course has students integrating King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and the march into their essay assignments.

“For us in African studies, the [march’s] grassroots community action against violations of human rights and in service of social justice is exactly what we see happening across sub-Saharan Africa today,” says Smith, an assistant professor in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown. “I think [the students] see the connections almost intuitively, but the essay assignment is meant to help them connect these events and circumstances to their own trajectories, to their own past and future work in social change and social justice.” 

The War on Poverty

A black and white photo of the March on Washington.

About 15 Georgetown faculty members have incorporated elements of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom into their curriculum in observance of this year's MLK theme, which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the march.

Business professor Robert Bies incorporated the march into his Courage and Moral Leadership course and plans to focus on King’s “I Have a Dream” and “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” during the Executive Master’s in Leadership Program for DC Public Schools Principals this month.

“I am connecting the march with the war on poverty over the next 10 days, and we are focusing on Sargent Shriver’s life as central to this discussion,” Bies says of his leadership course. “With the [master’s program] we will add more historical context by including Malcolm X’s perspective on the march.”

Oskvig says MLK week serves as a reminder to students, faculty and staff how they may continue the fight for social and economic justice within Washington, D.C., and the wider world.

“This is really an opportunity for us to talk about the rhetoric around the March on Washington, King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech and how it moved us as a country,” he says.

Reflection and Service

A Jan. 22 reflection panel will feature Georgetown faculty, including Richard America, professor of business; Deborah Tannen, university professor of linguistics; Ray Kemp, senior research fellow of theology; and Rabbi Harold White, senior adviser for the Jewish civilization program.

“The march highlighted the need for justice and jobs, and some of the university’s very own members either participated in the March or were inspired by the themes of that day to join the civil rights movement and work for antiwar causes, women's right, social justice and racial equality,” says Michael Smith, director for institutional diversity, equity, and affirmative action (IDEAA) at Georgetown. Smith co-chairs the MLK Planning Committee with Oskvig.

A candlelight reflection in Healy Circle on Jan 23 and a day of service with Promise Neighborhoods partner Ceasar Chavez Public Charter School for Public Policy on Jan. 25 will round out the week’s activities and events.

“It’s been great to see how students, faculty and staff have really come together around this theme to plan this week of programming,” says Oskvig. “It’s even more important that we’re able to open the events to not just the Georgetown community, but our neighbors and other members of the D.C. community.”

For more details about the week’s events, visit the MLK Celebration page.