The Western Howl

Home » News » Recap of the 16th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Week


Recap of the 16th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Week

Written by: Mirella Barrera-Betancourt

To honor and remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Western and Student Engagement partnered with the City of Monmouth to bring a week of celebratory events to the community. This year, MLK Week marked the 16th anniversary of celebration at Western and ran from Monday, Jan. 16 through Friday, Jan. 20. 

On Jan. 16, amidst a three-day weekend, Western students were encouraged to appreciate and reflect on the efforts of the civil rights leader via participation in a day of service. The event was not specifically geared towards members of the Western or Monmouth communities, but for those wanting to give back to the elderly and/or disabled Monmouth residents through community service. Participants of the service day assisted in projects ranging from yardscaping, housework and graffiti removal.

Justin Sunada, Assistant Director for the Center for Professional Pathways, played a significant role in making the service event happen. According to Sunada, he had pitched the idea of a community service event at a monthly meeting for the Monmouth Business Association. Sunada, alongside City of Monmouth’s Director of Community and Economic Development, Suzanne Dufner, immediately began the process of brainstorming ideas for service projects.

Sunada states, “Doing more with the City (of Monmouth) and getting students off campus as much as possible has always been a goal for us so the timing was just right with this event.” 

Approximately 40 individuals — from students, faculty, community members and City of Monmouth employees — participated in the Day of Service, making it a successful first event to kick off MLK Week.

On Tuesday, Jan. 17, the Black Student Union took over for the remainder of the week. Running from 5 p.m. – 6:30 p.m., BSU invited students to join them in the creation of their very own dream board. The event participants explored individuality while reflecting on their own personal and/or professional dreams.

On Wednesday, Western students sat for a panel discussion led by Western Professor Mike Wilson surrounding the topic of some of Dr. King’s lesser known statements and aspirations. This event, titled “Sincerely: Reading and Discussion,” was hosted by BSU and was made possible by Maya Hopwood, Deshaun Stevens, Amari Hendrix, Dawn Johnson and Western Professor Mike Johnson.

On Thursday, Western and BSU had the honor of welcoming Dr. Lakeya Omogun as their 16th annual MLK Week keynote speaker. Dr. Omogun — a Nigerian artist, scholar, writer and speaker — gave a moving speech to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This event took place in the Pacific Room of the Werner University Center and was free for all students.

“The turn out for the Panel “Sincerely” was way more than expected!” said Hopwood. “We felt that people appreciated hearing our views on MLK’s writings and I hope our main message of ‘it’s not over yet and it will take EVERYONE to lead this charge’ really got across.”

This year, Western hoped to raise a total of $2023 in fundraising, which would directly benefit Abby’s House’s Basic Needs Fund and Care Cupboards — a free service available for students, providing snacks, school supplies and menstrual hygiene products. 

There were three ways students could raise money for Abby’s House, one of which was by making a donation directly through the WOU Foundation page. Students could also raise money by participating in pay-to-play table carnival games or through participation in the “Pie Your Professor” event.

Although the initial goal of $2023 was unmet, Western was able to raise $1283 towards assisting and meeting students’ basic needs. 

Contact the author at