Starsky Wilson to Highlight Duke’s 2021 MLK Commemoration Events

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The Rev. Starsky Wilson, a nationally recognized children’s rights and racial equity champion who in December succeeded Marian Wright Edelman as president of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), will deliver the keynote address for Duke University’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration on Sunday, Jan. 17.

Wilson, an activist and philanthropist who served as chief executive of the church-linked Deaconess Foundation in St. Louis from 2011 until his new appointment, will speak on “Voices of the Movement,” the commemoration theme. The program, usually attended by hundreds in Duke Chapel, is being presented online this year. All of the Duke events are free and viewable by the public.

Wilson served as co-chair of the Ferguson Commission, a group that recommended reforms after the 2014 police shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The commission’s report called for sweeping changes in policing, the criminal justice system, child well-being and economic mobility.

Wilson, who holds a doctorate in ministry from Duke, has described himself as a “street preacher” at heart. He says he is now honored to serve young people through CDF at a time when “it’s a little too easy to forget about crafting policy for children who don’t get to vote, don’t have lobbyists and can’t make campaign contributions … child well-being and racial justice are intimately and forever intertwined. …”

The annual program will link “voices of wisdom from the past and hope for the present that guide our pursuit of a more just world,” according to a committee statement.

The virtual program will also feature performances by John Brown’s Jazz Ambassadors, The Collage Dance Company and Duke student dancer Akylah Cox. Other highlights will include greetings from Duke University President Vincent E. Price, Chancellor for Health Affairs Dr. A. Eugene Washington, Durham Mayor Steve Schewel and Duke Black Student Association Co-President Tobi Akinyelu.

The program, streaming from 3 p.m., can be viewed here.

“We have worked hard to reimagine the MLK program in a virtual format this year in a way that will inspire and engage our community during this difficult time,” said Kimberly D. Hewitt, vice president for Duke’s Office for Institutional Equity. “We are very excited about our keynote speaker. Dr. Wilson is the kind of leader who particularly reflects the legacy of Dr. King as a pastor, visionary and someone who is deeply committed to the well-being of children.”

Rubenstein Scholar and St. Louis native De’Ja Wood, a Duke senior, says she is excited that Rev. Wilson will share insights from his leadership of the Ferguson Commission.

“The annual MLK Commemoration at Duke provides the space for the university to acknowledge the ongoing fight for racial justice within our own community and the world at-large and for community members to consider how we can support this fight at Duke and in our surrounding communities,” she said.

Other virtual events include:

11 a.m., Sunday, Jan. 17, Duke Chapel: The Rev. Dr. Luke A. Powery, dean of the chapel, is the preacher during the chapel’s regular worship service, which will include a litany of prayers related to the MLK commemoration. View on the chapel website.

1 p.m., Monday, Jan. 18, Virtual Unity Rally hosted by Duke Athletics, with Duke President Vincent E. Price joining other speakers from the university community, including several student-athletes. Register here.

3-4 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 20, virtual panel discussion on the current wave of athletes’ social justice activism, led by Etan Thomas, a former NBA player and author of the book, “We Matter: Athletes and Activism,” and facilitated by Duke Men’s Basketball Operations Director Nolan Smith. Panel members will include Mark Anthony Neal, James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of African and African American Studies, and Jenna Frush, a Master of Theological Studies student at Duke Divinity School and medical student at Duke. Register here to view on Zoom. Questions for the panelists may be submitted in advance to sharon.caple@duke.edu.

The Rev. Starsky Wilson to Highlight Duke's MLK Commemoration Events
The Rev. Starsky Wilson
Duke MLK commemoration keynote speaker: Rev. Starsky Wilson
The Rev. Starsky Wilson, a nationally recognized children’s rights and racial equity champion who in December succeeded Marian Wright Edelman as president of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), will deliver the keynote address for Duke University’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration on Sunday, Jan. 17.
Virtual Unity Rally
1 p.m., Monday, Jan. 18: Virtual Unity Rally hosted by Duke Athletics, with Duke President Vincent E. Price joining other speakers from the university community, including several student-athletes.
3-4 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 20, virtual panel discussion on the current wave of athletes’ social justice activism, led by Etan Thomas, a former NBA player and author of the book, “We Matter: Athletes and Activism.”

Social Justice Activist Rev. Starsky Wilson Calls for a Bold Child-Focused Agenda During MLK Event

The Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, a nationally recognized children’s rights and racial equity champion who in December succeeded Marian Wright Edelman as president of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), called for a child-focused agenda of New Deal dimensions in his keynote address for Duke University’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration, streamed on the web beginning Sunday afternoon.

Wilson, who holds a doctorate in ministry from Duke, recently moved to Washington, D.C., to lead the CDF. He shared how he and his 12-year-old son had been shaken by images of the violence and vandalism during the Capitol attack on Jan. 6.

In their new home just a few miles from the Capitol, the family watched on television as police responded to a crowd of 2,000 people who claimed to be saving America, and Wilson said he wondered how the riot would affect his son.

“As I saw him the next day in virtual school talking about the event, I recognized something else going on with him,” Wilson said. “There was an evolution of a breakdown of the symbols of the American dream.”

A critical symbol of that dream, he said, is the peaceful transfer of power.

While noting that we still hold to the notion of economic mobility as also key to the American dream, he said we haven’t been serious about wage and wealth support for the accumulation of assets that would assure a better future for minority children.

“We have not marshaled the will for universal basic income or marshaled the will for child allowances or marshaled the will to make permanent the kinds of (COVID) relief that equalize the humanity of children and adults …”

Wilson said the nation can’t settle for gradualism at this “unique and tumultuous time of transition in American life,” amid a pandemic and insurrection. Swinging for the fences is what is called for instead, he said, reflecting on the words in Rev. Dr. King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail.”

“It is time for us to put together the pieces of the American dream. This is King’s call for 2021, not to be happy with going back to the normal that was killing our children, not to be happy to go back to that which divides. But to put back the pieces in a way that we can remember how we were broken and in doing so we might live faithfully the call to beloved community, live faithfully into our unfulfilled hopes and we might indeed live what King later centered as an appropriate reality and new American dream.”

Before taking the presidency of the CDF, Wilson served as chief executive of the church-linked Deaconess Foundation in St. Louis from 2011 to December, 2020. He also served as co-chair of the Ferguson Commission, a group that recommended reforms after the 2014 police shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

The program, usually attended by hundreds in Duke Chapel, was presented online this year, and can be viewed here.

https://today.duke.edu/2021/01/social-justice-activist-rev-starsky-wilson-calls-bold-child-focused-agenda-during-mlk-event

MLK Commemoration Safe Service Opportunities

Throughout the month of January in observance of the MLK Holiday and the National Day of Service, we invite you to join us in supporting our community through COVID safe service. The Duke Office of Durham and Community Affairs is hosting a virtual food drive through the Interfaith Food Shuttle and a book drive through Book Harvest.

A virtual food drive serves as a wonderful opportunity to support efforts that combat food insecurity and hunger in North Carolina while also remaining safe at home. To contribute to this virtual fundraiser, please visit here.

To contribute to the Book Harvest drive, donate gently used children’s books to support children’s literacy in Durham. Book donation locations include the East Campus Store (1328 Campus Drive), NC Mutual Life Building Lobby (411 W. Chapel Hill Street) and The Lobby Shop (125 Science Drive).

This event is sponsored by the 2021 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Committee.


Rev. Wilson to Return in March for a ‘Stand for Racial Justice’ Talk

Rev. Starsky Wilson, Duke’s MLK commemoration keynote speaker, has agreed to return to the Sanford School for Public Policy (virtually) for a “Stand for Racial Justice” talk on Thursday, March 25 from 5-6 p.m. The event is co-sponsored by the Center for Child and Family Policy, Duke Divinity School and the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity. Register here.

2021 Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Theme and Mission Statement

Voices of the Movement

“In the end, we will remember not the word of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1965)

This year, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. birthday celebration commemorates voices of wisdom from the past and hope for the present that guide our pursuit of a more just world. Throughout 2020 we have witnessed voices bringing inequity and injustices to light that have been occurring within our communities. We are reminded during these times of the inspirational voices which have guided movements which sparked change and justice, creating space for others to join in and walk beside one another in this shared work. The legacy of those voices was echoed this year by those speaking out against injustice, cruelty, health disparities and suffering within our communities. We celebrate them and invite you to find YOUR voice in the movement.