March, Vigil, Community Banquet Highlight Martin Luther King Jr. Day Events

Charles O. Stewart and Secretary Gerard Robinson
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Charles O. Stewart and Secretary Gerard Robinson

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The University of Arkansas and northwest Arkansas community will come together again this year to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, Jan. 17. The theme of the events surrounding the celebration is “Service to many … leads to greatness." Charles O. Stewart, retired banker, Arkansas community leader and noted humanitarian, is the featured speaker for the annual Recommitment Banquet and the university Student Symposium.

The primary events will be the annual MLK Day March and Vigil and the 15th annual Recommitment Banquet, all being held on Jan. 17. However, the NWA Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Planning Committee has organized a full weekend of activities and events prior to MLK Day. 

These begin with a community service project starting at 9 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 15, at the Fayetteville Health and Rehabilitation Center. It is sponsored by the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

At 6 p.m. that evening a Service of Praise and Reflection will be held at Christian Life Cathedral in Fayetteville. Yvette Murphy-Erby, associate professor of social work at the University of Arkansas is the featured speaker. There will also be gospel performances by the Arkansas Gospel Mass Choir and the St. James Baptist Church Sanctuary Choir. The event is sponsored by the NWA MLK Planning Committee.

Sunday, Jan.16, at 3 p.m. the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Service will be held at the St. James Baptist Church in Fayetteville. The event is sponsored by the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and the NWA MLK Planning Committee. The featured speaker is DuShun Scarbrough, executive director of the Arkansas Martin Luther King Commission.

The morning of MLK Jr. Day begins with two MLK Dream Keeper community service programs: a Youth Prayer Breakfast at 8 a.m. at the Janelle Y. Hembree Alumni House at the University of Arkansas; and Youth Activities, starting at 9:30 a.m. at the university Health, Recreation and Physical Recreation Building. These events are sponsored by the NWA MLK Planning Committee, University of Arkansas Intramural Sports and university Intercollegiate Athletics.

At 11:15 a.m., as people gather at the Walton Arts Center parking lot on Dickson St. to remember Dr. King, the City of Fayetteville will present its annual MLK Jr. awards. The MLK Day march will begin at 11:30 a.m., and travel from Dickson St. to the Verizon Ballroom in the University of Arkansas Union. The traditional noon vigil will be held in the ballroom, and speakers will include students, community members and university chancellor G. David Gearhart.

The awards program and march are sponsored by the NWA MLK Planning Committee and the City of Fayetteville. The vigil ceremony is sponsored by the university’s Associated Student Government and the Black Students Association.

Following the vigil, university students will join in a MLK Day of Service from 2-5 p.m. The event will be coordinated by the Volunteer Action Center, and will take place in each of the university residence halls.

MLK Jr. Day will end with the 15th annual Recommitment Banquet, at the Fayetteville Town Center. The banquet will begin at 7 p.m. and will include community awards and the presentation of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarships, awarded to high school, college and graduate students. Tickets for the banquet are $25 for adults and $15 for students. Tickets can be purchased by contacting Kathryn Birkhead, at 756-8090, ext. 2190; Danielle L. Wood, at 575-4825; John L. Colbert, 479-521-2399 or 479-435-1393; or by e-mail: The deadline for buying tickets is Wednesday, Jan. 12.

Charles O. Stewart is the featured speaker at the banquet. He is chair and co-founder of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame and served for most of 2010 as interim CEO of Heifer International, a global nonprofit leader of sustainable agricultural development for smallholder farmers. He continues to serve on the organization’s board of directors.

Stewart retired as executive vice president for Regions Bank in 2008, following a long career that focused on community and rural development by providing financing for affordable housing, innovative small business loans, and commercial development in designated development and disaster recovery zones. Stewart is a partner in Hartsfield Brooks Media Inc. of Atlanta.

The Recommitment Banquet is sponsored by NWA MLK Planning Committee.

Stewart will also be the featured speaker at the MLK Jr. Student Symposium from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 18, at the University of Arkansas Multicultural Center in the Arkansas Union. The symposium is sponsored by the University of Arkansas MLK Campus Committee.

On Friday, Jan. 21, at noon, Gerard Robinson, the Virginia secretary of education, will speak on the achievement gap that affects black children. His lecture will be held in Room 203 of the Willard J. Walker Hall, and is sponsored by the department of education reform in the College of Education and Health Professions.

Robinson was appointed to his cabinet position in Virginia in January 2010. He formerly served as president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, based in Washington, D.C. He is co-author of "The Color of Success: Black Student Achievement in Public Charter Schools," an issue brief that examined charter schools as a tool for improving educational opportunities and results for black students.

Robinson served as a senior research associate for the School Choice Demonstration Project at the University of Arkansas from 2006 to 2007 and as a senior fellow at the Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University from 2004 to 2006. He also worked as an elementary school teacher in Los Angeles and opened a charter school in New Jersey.

Robinson earned a bachelor of arts degree from Howard University and a master of education degree from Harvard University.


Danielle L. Wood, assistant director
Office of Affirmative Action

Cedric Kenner, director
Multicultural Center

Steve Voorhies, manager of media relations
University Relations

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