UPDATE (1/17/20): Andrew Aydin, an award-winning author and top aide to U.S. Rep. John Lewis, will be the featured speaker at the 2020 MLK Day of Celebration. A New York Times bestselling author, Aydin is the creator/co-author of the three-volume, graphic memoir “MARCH” that recounts Lewis’ experiences in the nation’s struggle for civil rights. Co-authored with Lewis and illustrated by Nate Powell, “MARCH” is the first graphic novel to win the National Book Award. It is used at schools, colleges and universities across the country to teach students about the civil rights movement. Several classes at Michigan State University use it today. Aydin is a National Book Award winner, a Robert F. Kennedy Book Award Honoree, a Printz Award winner, a Sibert Medal winner, a Walter Dean Myers Award winner, a two-time Eisner award winner and the recipient of multiple Coretta Scott King honors. Today, Aydin serves as digital director & policy advisor to Lewis in Washington, D.C. A graduate of Trinity College in Hartford and Georgetown University in Washington D.C., Aydin wrote his master’s thesis on the history and impact of the comic book “Martin Luther King & The Montgomery Story.” He speaks at schools and universities, and participates in reading programs with incarcerated youth.
EAST LANSING, Mich. — A record 1,800 people are expected to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the 55th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches at the 35th Annual MLK Day of Celebration, hosted by the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Mid-Michigan.
“We will celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as well as recognize the 55th anniversary of the Selma march that hastened passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” said MLK Commission Chairperson Elaine Hardy. “It will be a full and robust program that also includes a tribute to Congressman John Lewis for his many years of extraordinary service.”
U.S. Rep. John Lewis was scheduled to speak, but is limiting his travel due to treatment for pancreatic cancer. He is not expected to attend the Lansing event.
Featured entertainment will be R&B and jazz recording artist Ledisi and Lansing’s The Music of the Dream Orchestra. Ledisi is a 12-time, GRAMMY-nominated vocal powerhouse, a songwriter and an actress. She portrayed gospel singer Mahalia Jackson in the 2015 Oscar-nominated movie “Selma,” which chronicled King’s campaign to secure equal voting rights via a series of three Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights marches in 1965. During the first march, more than 600 peaceful protestors were brutally attacked by law enforcement officers on Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge – an event that became known as Bloody Sunday.
Among those scheduled to speak at the Day of Celebration next Monday are U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, Lansing Mayor Andy Schor and East Lansing Mayor Ruth Beier, East Lansing.
Participants and winners of the 2020 MLK Commission art and student essay contests will be recognized at the event. The winners of these contests will receive approximately $25,000 in scholarships and awards.
The Commission’s 35th Annual MLK Day of Celebration is Monday, Jan. 20 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Lansing Center, 333 Michigan Ave. The event is sold out at this time. This year’s theme is “There Comes a Time When Silence is Betrayal” - a Dr. King quote.
Hardy emphasized, “We will continue to pray for Congressman Lewis’ full recovery and look forward to welcoming him to our community in the future.”
The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Mid-Michigan works to support equality, diversity and social justice. It focuses on the area’s pressing issues of literacy, youth violence, hunger, mentoring, education and community enrichment. The non-profit organization supports a number of community service agencies and promotes youth initiatives, such as essay and art contests, college scholarships and the annual, eight-day Y-Achievers Cultural Immersion Transportation Study & College Tour for high school students.