Area events to celebrate life of Martin Luther King Jr.

The Lawrence community is invited to continue more than a quarter-century of celebrations of the life and times of one of the country’s iconic civil rights leaders.

Students, faculty, staff and others will attend the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Celebration, set for 2:25 p.m. to 3:10 p.m. Thursday in the gymnasium at South Middle School, 2734 La.

The event — an annual tradition at South for more than 25 years — is one of several events commemorating the life and legacy of King, whose peaceful efforts in the ’60s led to societal changes that continue to empower people today and beyond.

“South has a long tradition of celebrating its diversity,” said Jill Jevens, a language arts teacher at South and adviser of Honor the Circle, the school’s Native American club. “The building itself is on Haskell (Indian Nations University) land. We just really take pride in what a diverse school we are.”

National recognition of King and his efforts — the national holiday is Monday, a day after what would have been the minister’s 83rd birthday — carries special significance at South.

“We feel it’s kind of a reflection of ourselves,” Jevens said, “so we’re celebrating.”

The event at South will include a reading of a poem written by Clenece Hills, a former South English teacher; a candle-lighting ceremony; performances of award-winning student works; and a speech by Jesse Milan, the first black teacher in the Lawrence school district, who will discuss the history of race issues in Lawrence.

Among other events in Lawrence to honor King:

• The school district’s annual MLK Educational Event, 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the auditorium at Free State High School, 4700 Overland Drive, featuring presentations of student service projects.

• Concert featuring Kim and Reggie Harris, folk and civil rights singers and storytellers, 5 p.m. Jan. 15, at Unitarian Fellowship, 1265 N. 1100 Road. The Harrises, of New York, are known for their performances regarding the Underground Railroad. For more information about the performance and for tickets, visit

• Martin Luther King Chili Supper, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Jan. 17 at New York School, 936 N.Y.

• Baker University’s annual King celebration, 11 a.m. Jan. 26 in Osborne Chapel at the campus in Baldwin City, featuring Devan A. Taylor, senior pastor of Beyond the Walls Church International, in Kansas City, Mo.