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A civil rights leader, a South African jurist and a minister who’s also a business professor will be among the speakers during Northwestern University’s annual commemoration of the life and legacy of the late civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

The weeklong celebration begins Monday, Jan. 18. Northwestern has suspended classes for a university-wide, full-day observance that day.

That evening Nicholas A. Pearce, an ordained minister, Northwestern alumnus and Kellogg professor whose research examines values-driven leadership, diversity and inclusion, collaboration and change in organizations around the world, will speak at the Alpha Mu Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Candlelight Vigil at Alice Millar Chapel.

Pearce is assistant pastor of the historic Apostolic Church of God on Chicago’s south side.

Legendary civil rights and peace activist Diane Nash’s keynote address, on Monday, Jan. 25, at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, will conclude the week-long commemoration. The 6 p.m. program also will feature music and performances by Northwestern student groups. Earlier in the day, at noon, that day, Nash will address Northwestern faculty, staff and students on the Chicago campus. Both events are free and open to the public.

Nash became involved in the nonviolent civil rights movement in 1959 in Tennessee, when she was a college student in Nashville.

Nash, a Chicago native who had never experienced segregation in public accommodations prior to moving to the South, went on to become one of the civil rights movement’s pioneers.

She was a leader and strategist of the student wing of the 1960s civil rights movement. Her campaigns were among the most successful of the era. In 1960, Nash became the chairperson of the Fisk University student sit-in movement in Nashville, the first southern city to desegregate its lunch counters.

In 1961, Nash coordinated the Freedom Ride from Birmingham, Ala., to Jackson, Miss. She also played a key role in bringing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Montgomery, Ala., on May 21 of that year in support of the Freedom Riders. That memorable journey was documented in the recent Public Broadcasting Services (PBS) American Experience film “Freedom Riders.”

Monday, Jan. 18 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Northwestern students will engage in a variety of service projects throughout Evanston and Chicago during the University’s annual Day of Service. Students also will have the opportunity to reflect on their experiences during lunch that day. Volunteer registration is currently at maximum capacity, however, information about additional volunteer opportunities in Evanston is available online.

Jan. 18 also is Eva Jefferson Day on the Evanston campus. The Eva Jefferson Civil Rights Program brings 50 to 70 Chicago and Evanston middle school students to campus to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The program’s committee organizes a full day of arts and crafts activities, speakers for the students and discussions about King’s legacy. Northwestern student volunteers act as mentors for the children. The program was established in 2003 by Associated Student Government (ASG) President Rachel Lopez.

The following Martin Luther King Jr. Day events on both campuses are free and open to the public.

On Wednesday, Jan. 20, Justice Edwin Cameron of the Constitutional Court of South Africa will offer a personal account of South Africa’s transition from an oppressive racist autocracy to an inclusive democracy under the world’s most progressive constitution at 5 p.m. on Room 107 of Harris Hall at 1881 Sheridan Road.

In the first of two talks, he will offer reflections on the most notable successes as well as the biggest failures as a nation, long divided by wealth and race and carrying heavy burdens from the past, grapples to secure its path forward under constitutionalism and the rule of law.

Cameron also will be the featured speaker at 4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 21, in the McCormick Foundation Center Forum, 1870 Campus Drive. In a conversation with Douglas Foster, associate journalism professor at Medill, Cameron will discuss South Africa’s constitutional commitment to freedom of expression, including freedom of the press and other media.

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