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MLK Celebration Week takes over UMass Lowell

Martin Luther King Jr. waves at the crowd following his notorious “I have a Dream.” (Courtesy of The Source)

Taylor Carito
Connector Editor

Just over 50 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. diligently worked while taking a stand for what he believed in, and to this day, encouraged millions of other Americans to do the same. In honor of his inspiration and dedication to his beliefs, UMass Lowell’s Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) is launching MLK week from Jan. 23 to Feb. 3.

The events go deeper than just a celebration of Dr. King Jr. This week is not only for Dr. King Jr., but for his legacy that still influences people in 2017. “This is a national honoring and celebration,” says OMA faculty member Leslie Wong.

Other faculty members behind the event include Elsie Otero, Michelle Zohlman, Allyson Lynch and Francine Coston, who have all worked tirelessly creating events to promote inclusion and community. “There’s offerings for basically everyone based on interest level and how comfortable they are,” says Zohlman.

MLK week kicks off Monday, Jan. 23 with a Service Day. It varies every year, and for this MLK week OMA is focusing on promoting the new food pantry with a competition. “Our service day has evolved over the years, and we always take a look at what are the current needs our community and our students are responding to,” says Zohlman.

The Food Pantry Donation Challenge consists of groups of up to 10 people collecting non-perishables to donate to the UMass Lowell Navigators Food Pantry in University Crossing. The team with the largest donation wins a cash value prize to the River Hawk Shop. Teams can consist of anyone in the UMass Lowell community.

This first event will also include the official launch of OMA’s campaign called “Our Story:” a collection of students’ stories and who they are to promote ally ship.

As the week progresses, men’s basketball and hockey will be hosting an MLK celebration including performances and a video collaborated by OMA and the Athletics Department.

The largest event offered during the week is the MLK dinner, which is open to students, faculty and the Lowell community. The dinner takes place every year, and OMA collaborates with Markland Elementary School and Stoklosa Middle School to produce thematic pieces that students work on throughout the year. The fourth graders at Markland create paintings while the eighth graders at Stoklosa write essays.

“The visual arts teacher takes a theme and builds a lesson around it. They work on this lesson for about two months, and then the final product is displayed in Moloney [Hall]. We get about 100 pieces of art from the fourth graders,” says Otero, “All of them are invited to the dinner and their parents. It’s a nice way to celebrate them.”

“It also builds confidence for them,” says Lynch. “They get really excited.” RSVPs for the dinner will be taken until Jan. 27.

Perhaps the most highlighted portion of the dinner is the announcing of the MLK Service Award recipient. This award is given to a faculty member, staff member, student or member of the Lowell community who presents the ideals of service as Dr. King would.

Events following the dinner include a panel of students from OMA’s campaign to share their stories and a trip to the Showcase Cinemas in Lowell to see a showing of “Hidden Figures.” The RSVP date is by Jan. 27.

RSVPs and questions can be sent to

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