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UNC’s MLK Jr. Celebration is part of a campus-wide initiative to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., his legacy and his ideals. Carolina began its celebrations of Dr. King’s life and legacy long before there was a federal holiday. UNC is the only university ever awarded the “Making of the King Holiday Award” by the former MLK Federal Holiday Commission. UNC-CH engages in honoring King’s legacy through several efforts: MLK Celebration and Committee; MLK University and Community Corporation; and the Day of Service.

D&I hosts this Week of Celebration, which includes the MLK Celebration Banquet, during which the MLK High School Senior Scholarship, Bridge Builders and Citizenship awards are presented; the MLK Lecture, during which the MLK UNC Scholarship Program for UNC juniors and MLK Unsung Hero Awards are presented; the MLK Unity Dinner, and other campus-wide events. This year’s theme is “I Am Because We Are: Interrelated Realities” (inspired by MLK’s Letter from the Birmingham jail).

Additional sponsorship provided by various departments and schools at Carolina:


Office of the Provost


Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development


Carolina Housing
Gillings School of Global Public Health
School of Government
School of Law
School of Social Work
University Libraries


American Studies
Carolina Athletics
Carolina Center for Public Service
Hussman School of Journalism and Media
Kenan-Flagler Business School
School of Education

UNCMLK2020 Schedule of Events

Sunday, January 19

Friday Center for Continuing Education
6 p.m. (reception at 5 p.m.)

Tickets: $30


If you require any special accommodations or have specific dietary needs, please contact the University Office for Diversity & Inclusion at or 919-962-6962.

The week begins with the 35th annual University/Community Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Banquet and Award Presentation, hosted by the MLK Jr. Corporation, in partnership with UNC’s Office for Diversity & Inclusion. The MLK University/Community Planning Corporation, a non-profit group founded in 1993, raises scholarship funds for high school students in Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Orange County and UNC students who work to improve the quality of life for everyone in the community. Each year, the Corporation also honors citizens in “recognition of enduring service to humanity by word and by deed” through the Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Citizenship Awards.

This year’s speaker will be Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, the first African American woman in the North Carolina Supreme Court’s 200-year history to serve as Chief Justice. She has been on the state’s highest court since 2012 and was appointed by Governor Cooper to serve as Chief Justice in March of 2019.

Chief Justice Beasley began her judicial career as a district court judge in Cumberland county where she served for a decade before being elected to the Court of Appeals in 2008. Chief Justice Beasley’s commitment to fair and accessible courts extends beyond the halls of justice. She has mentored countless students and judges, lectures at area law schools and travels nationwide and abroad to promote the rule of law, the administration of justice, the importance of an independent judiciary and fair judicial selection.

Tuesday, January 21

The Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History
6-7:30 p.m

Join the Stone Center in this celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through music and song. This annual program features vocal, dance and spoken word groups from the campus and community.

Parking is available after 5 p.m. in the Bell Tower Deck directly behind the Stone Center.

Wednesday, January 22

Memorial Hall

7 p.m.
Tickets: Free, but required. 

Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, author, radio host and Georgetown University sociology professor, will deliver the keynote and the Unsung Heroes awards and MLK Scholarship Awards will be presented.

Dr. Dyson’s pioneering scholarship has had a profound effect on American ideas, from his first book, 1993’s Reflecting Black: African American Cultural Criticism, which helped establish the field of black American cultural studies, to his most recent, Can You Hear Me Now? The Inspiration, Wisdom, and Insight of Michael Eric Dyson. His recent book offers a sampling of his sharp wit, profound thought and edifying eloquence on the enduring problems of humanity, from love to justice, and the latest topics of the day, including race and the presidency. Dr. Dyson has appeared on nearly every major media outlet and he is also a contributing editor to TIME magazine. In addition, he hosts a news and talk program on NPR, The Michael Eric Dyson Show, where he delivers thoughtful analysis of today’s biggest stories from pop culture to race relations. Dr. Dyson is presently University Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University where, in 2011, he received widespread attention for his course “Sociology of Hip-Hop: Jay-Z.” His legendary rise – from welfare father to Princeton PhD, from church pastor to college professor, from a factory worker who didn’t start college until he was 21 to a figure who has become what writer Naomi Wolf terms “the ideal public intellectual of our time” – may help explain why author Nathan McCall simply calls him “a street fighter in suit and tie.

Tickets are free and will be available at the Carolina Performing Arts and Memorial Hall ticket office on Jan. 8. Online purchases can be made HERE. For group tickets and further information, please contact the University Office for Diversity and Inclusion at 919-843-6086 or diversity


Please check this space for updates on additional events.

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