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Annual King celebration adds youth forum

January  08, 2016

Passing the Torch, an annual community-wide celebration and tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., will take place Jan. 16 at Augustana. For the first time, the celebration will include a community youth forum.

The forum will be led by a panel of students from Augustana and other area institutions. They and the audience of local and visiting youth will share their encounters of today's civil rights movement, to broaden the conversation and inspire progress.

"We want to foster the conversations of our youth about their societal concerns, but also ways they can contribute to positive change in their communities," said Eric Rowell, Augustana's assistant director of admissions and diversity outreach, who coordinates the event.

The youth forum will be held from 3-4:30 p.m. in Wallenberg Hall in the Denkmann building, prior to the tribute event, which begins at 6 p.m. in Centennial Hall.

Junior high, high school and college students are welcome to join in the conversation. Students visiting Augustana for the Open House and Scholarship Competition Jan. 16 also are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Christopher Whitt

A keynote address from Dr. Christopher Whitt, associate professor of political science at Augustana College, will emphasize what young people are addressing in their communities right now, and their tactics to bring about change.

"Events like the MLK Celebration are a time to get energized and inspired to work together for what's right," Dr. Whitt said.

"The civil rights movements of the past brought people of different backgrounds together for the common cause of justice. The same type of unity is needed today," Whitt said. "We must celebrate the victories of the past, but also remember the sacrifices made by so many people."

The celebration will include musical performances by the Unity Choir, Toi Allen and Ebony Rivers, a theatrical tribute by I Am Productions, and presentation of "The Power of One" Award.

Speakers will include Pastor Mark Anderson of the Pentecostal Church of God, Margaret Mojita and Charlene Upchurch-Taylor of One by One, and Pastor Mason Parks of the New Journey African Methodist Episcopal Church.

The community celebration in honor of Dr. King has a long history in the Quad Cities. Original founders included the Westbrook family of East Moline, the NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's Iowa-Illinois Chapter.

The celebration now is organized each year by Augustana College and the Dr. King Celebration Committee, which consists of community members from organizations and groups including Alpha Kappa Alpha, Davenport school district, Gathering of Women, I am Productions, One by One, Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, Pentecostal Church of God in Davenport, Quad City Minority Partnership, Rock Island County NAACP, Rock Island-Milan school district, St. Ambrose University, Top Notch Productions and Unity Point Health.

Sam Schlouch
Senior Communication Director
(309) 794-7833