Award-winning historian, author, and professor Crystal Sanders to deliver keynote speech at 2023 Martin Luther King Jr. Day event

In commemoration of the life of Civil Rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. and in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2023, Lees-McRae College will host a special ceremony on Monday, Jan. 23 at 6 p.m. in Hayes Auditorium on the college’s North Campus. The theme of this year’s event will be “Lessons from the Mountaintop: Revelations from the Promised Land.”

This year’s theme seeks to examine the goals King discussed in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech and take them a step further by highlighting strategies and steps needed for this dream to become a reality. King’s last speech, delivered the evening before he was assassinated, is titled “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” and discusses “the promised land” that Chief Diversity Officer and organizer of the event Charles Gibson III is referencing in the theme.

In addition to recitations of a piece of student-selected poetry and one of King’s speeches, a performance by acapella group The Highlanders, and remarks from President Lee King, the event will also feature a keynote speech from Acting Associate Professor at Emory University Crystal Sanders.

“With this year’s theme I wanted to get away from ‘I Have a Dream.’ Not that that wasn’t wonderful, but I really want people to be exposed to more of Dr. King’s messages. One of his final messages was delivered the evening before he was assassinated to a group of union workers where he talked about seeing the ‘promised land,’” Gibson said. “That got me thinking what that looks like, and I imagine it is probably a place where that dream is realized. What I’m hoping is that Dr. Sanders will give some insight based on her research, and her knowledge as a historian of what that vision he saw may have been.”

In the classroom, Sanders’ interests and specialties include African American history, Black women’s history, and the history of Black education. She is an award-winning historian and author who earned her PhD in History from Northwestern University. Her speech will provide her perspective on the event’s theme and on the promised land that King spoke of in his final address.

Regardless of race, gender, political leanings, or any other personal identifier, Gibson said that this event is an important moment for all members of the community to come together, recognize their history, celebrate the strides that have been made, and look to the future to continue the progress toward a more fair and just society for all people.

“It’s important to recognize─more important than Dr. King himself─the ideals he stood for,” Gibson said. “Dr. King was really focused on the future, and making things better for future generations, and I know that many members of our community share that sentiment, so this is also an opportunity to talk about that and think critically about how we’re going to make things better for our students.”

The event is free and open to the public. Members of the Lees-McRae, Banner Elk, and wider North Carolina communities are invited and encouraged to attend in person and celebrate the life and work of King. In addition, the entire event will be livestreamed for those who will be unable to attend the ceremony in person but would still like to participate in the evening’s events. The streaming link will go live on the college’s YouTube account shortly before the ceremony begins.

Watch the “Lessons from the Mountaintop: Revelations from the Promised Land” livestream

By Maya JarrellJanuary 09, 2023
Campus LifeCommunity