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News Release: 2021 Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration to Reflect on Positions of Conscience

The Rev. Dr. William J Barber II to speak as part of the MLK Advocacy for Justice Virtual Celebration, Sunday, January 17 at 3:00 pm. 

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Two longstanding Champaign County committees, Martin Luther King, Jr. Countywide Committee and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Advocacy for Justice Committee, Inc. unite this year to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for the 2021 Annual Countywide Celebration. This year’s theme is “Rising Together: Facing the Challenges of Tomorrow Today.” 

Highlighting the 2021 event will be an address by the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, President & Senior Lecturer of Repairers of the Breach and Co-Chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call For Moral Revival. Rev. Barber will be the keynote speaker during this year’s Annual Countywide Celebration on Sunday, January 17 at 3:00 pm. He will speak to the Champaign-Urbana and Rantoul community live from his office in Goldsboro, North Carolina.  

During a year defined by COVID-19, the pandemic has directed a new light on the persistent and insidious twin crisis of systemic racism and generationally embedded racial disparities afflicting our society. This year’s celebration is also a common and shared call to action for everyone in the community to commit to the hard work necessary to end racism and social injustice.  

 “In a year when our entire county has come together to face the challenges of COVID-19 with a level of collaboration and cooperation that is unmatched in our nation, it is so very appropriate that we honor the life, spirit and hope of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in this single celebration of unity as well,” said Chancellor Robert J. Jones. “And it is extremely exciting that this milestone event will be further elevated by the participation of the Rev. Dr. Barber – one of the leading voices for equality and social justice in our nation today.” 

The program will also include an awards presentation to community organizations and leaders from across Champaign County for their commitment to humanitarianism and community service. The program will also recognize the Advocacy for Social Justice MLK Jr. Scholarship recipients from Champaign and Urbana school districts. More information about this virtual event is at A link to watch the Sunday, January 17 celebration event will be posted on this page and is open to the public. 

This year’s University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign celebration of the life and work of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. will feature nearly three weeks of presentations, activities, and discussions reflecting on what it means to speak from a position of conscience. This year’s events are inspired by a quote from a speech by Dr. King on February 6, 1968: “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular.” Highlights include a discussion with Joy Ann Williamson-Lott, author of Black Power on Campus, The University of Illinois, 1965-1975, a presentation by David Northern, CEO, Champaign County, Housing Authority of Champaign County, and MLK Creative Writing Contest. 

Due to current COVID-19 social distancing requirements, this year’s events will be virtual and open to all through online platforms. A full calendar of events is available at Pre-registration may be required to receive links to some events.