Students, Staff Join Community for MLK Day Observances

LOU community gathering to honor slain civil rights icon's life and legacy

Leslie Burl McLemore, professor emeritus of political science at Jackson State University, is the keynote speaker for the inaugural Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service Banquet on Jan. 17 in the Ole Miss Student Union Ballroom. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi students, faculty, staff and community partners are spearheading efforts to promote community engagement and honor the legacy of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. in Lafayette County and Oxford.

“The Division of Diversity and Community Engagement has worked with local community leaders to coordinate existing and new programming and to grow university engagement within the broader community,” said Erin Payseur Oeth, project manager for community engagement. “We have committed to cross-promoting communitywide activities and supporting broad campus and community participation.”

UM is hosting an inaugural communitywide dinner commemorating King’s life and legacy at 7 p.m. Jan. 17 at the Jackson Avenue Center. Leslie Burl McLemore, professor emeritus of political science at Jackson State University, will deliver the keynote address.

The theme for the event is “Martin Luther King Jr. and the Right to Vote: The Long Road to Freedom.” The event is free to the public, but an RSVP is requested. Register online at

On Jan. 20, the university’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement is hosting a small-group immersive service experience from 2 to 4 p.m. in the local area.

“We think service is a powerful experience for MLK Day and builds on our larger work of creating immersive service-learning experiences for students in our community,” Oeth said. “We are excited to introduce students to this local community site through service.”

Other scheduled activities include:

  • Jan. 18: Third annual community reading of “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” 5 p.m. at Off-Square Books. Readers include members from the LOU community to acknowledge one of King’s most powerful works.
  • Jan. 20: Community opening ceremony from 8 a.m. to noon at Second Baptist Church, 611 Jackson Ave. East. Activities include a community breakfast sponsored by St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, a canned food drive, a voter registration drive sponsored by the Urban League of Women Voters, an NAACP membership drive and a community program honoring civil rights trailblazers. Following the breakfast, there will a march from Second Baptist to the Lafayette County Courthouse.
  • Jan. 20: A film screening, co-sponsored by the Oxford Film Festival and Southern Foodways Alliance, 2-4 p.m. at the Powerhouse Community Arts Center. Films include “Yazoo Revisited” by David Rae Morris and two films from the SFA.

For more information about MLK Day of Service events, contact Erin Payseur Oeth at , Melanie Addington at, Lyn Roberts at or Jerone Smith at