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 in 1983, 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; Day of Service, and the MLK UNC Scholarship Program for UNC juniors.

D&I hosts this Week of Celebration, which includes the MLK Celebration Banquet, the MLK Lecture, the MLK Unity Dinner, the MLK Unsung Hero Awards, and other events. This year’s theme is “Rise Above” (inspired by MLK’s quote, “We are challenged to rise above the narrow confines of our individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”)

UNCMLK2019 Schedule of Events

Sunday, January 20

Screening, Panel Discussion and Reception: “The Unafraid”
FedEx Global Education Center, Atrium (301 Pittsboro Street, Chapel Hill)

3:30-6:30 p.m.

UndocuCarolina will host a film screening of “The Unafraid,” followed by a panel discussion and reception, sponsored by the Curriculum in Global Studies and organized in collaboration with LatinxEd.

Shot over a period of four years, the film takes an intimate look at the lives of DACA students Alejandro, Silvia and Aldo as they navigate activism, pursuing their right to education and fighting for the rights of their families and communities. Together, they show us what it means to grow up both American and undocumented in the United States.


University/Community Annual MLK Banquet
Friday Center for Continuing Education
6 p.m. (reception at 5 p.m.)

Tickets: $30
Purchase tickets here

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 34th 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 Dr. Reginald Hildebrand. Professor Hildebrand retired from UNC in 2016 and is the author of The Times Were Strange and Stirring: Methodist Preachers and the Crisis of Emancipation (Duke University Press, 1995) and is currently working on a book with the working title, The Cleverest Document Issued This Century: Abraham Lincoln, the Emancipation Proclamations and the Meanings of Freedom. He was awarded UNC’s Tanner Faculty Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2012, is a former co-chair of the North Carolina Freedom Monument Project and a former trustee of the North Carolina Humanities Council. He was also a member of the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission and the Advisory Board for the North Carolina Historical Review.

Tuesday, January 22

Black River Exhibition Opening and He Was a Poem, He Was a Song
Robert and Sallie Brown Gallery and Museum, Hitchcock Multipurpose Room, Stone Center

5:30 p.m.

Join the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History in a celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with the opening of their spring exhibition, Black River, and their annual event, He Was a Poem, He Was a Song. Black River includes deeply personal works comprised of paintings, photographs, ready-mades and videos by Greensboro-based artist Charles Williams. Works in the show bear witness to moments that chronicle his father’s personal struggles that challenged him as a son and tested his own spiritual beliefs. Following the exhibition opening, students, faculty, staff and community members are invited to explore Dr. King’s legacy through music, dance, and spoken word.


But Still I Rise: 2019 Unity Dinner
Great Hall, Student Union

6-8 p.m.

“We are challenged to rise above the narrow confines of our individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity” – Dr. King

The 2nd Annual Unity Dinner is an opportunity for student leaders across our campus to come together and foster an atmosphere of solidarity. In the spirit of  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s bridge-building work, this dinner serves as an opportunity for honest conversation within our UNC community.

Wednesday, January 23

Pit Photo Campaign
The Pit, Union Art Gallery
11 a.m.-1 p.m.


Thursday, January 24

The 38th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Keynote Lecture and Awards Ceremony
Memorial Hall
7:30 p.m.

Tickets: FREE, but required. Tickets will be available at the Carolina Performing Arts/Memorial Hall Box Office or online.

The MLK Lecture will feature Ben Jealous, former president and CEO of the NAACP, as the keynote speaker, as well as presentations for the UNC MLK Student Scholarship and Unsung Heroes awards.

Ben Jealous is a renowned activist, civil rights leader, community organizer and 2018 Maryland gubernatorial candidate. Benjamin served as the youngest NAACP president in its history. Under his leadership and through various initiatives, he led the association to become the largest civil rights organization online and on mobile, as well as the largest community-based nonpartisan voter registration operation in the country. Now affiliated with the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kapor Capital, Benjamin continues to further the goal of growing opportunities for minorities in the tech economy.

Please check this space for updates on additional events.

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