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Events for Martin Luther King Jr. celebration announced

Jeff Unger, News Bureau


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The lineup of speakers for this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration includes film director Keith Beauchamp (“The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till”) and Chris Benson, co-author with Mamie Till-Mobley of her memoir “Death of Innocence: The Hate Crime That Changed America.” Till-Mobley is Emmett Till’s mother. Emmett Till, 14, was murdered in August 1955 for supposedly having whistled at a white woman.

Other events in the celebration, which takes place from Jan. 14 through Jan. 27, include movies, student and faculty panel discussions, essay-contest readings, storytelling and dance performances. The event is sponsored by the chancellor’s office and more than 70 other units of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as well as community organizations.

The celebration was created, in part, to bring together members of the campus and community to reflect, discuss and plan ways to advance King’s vision. The theme this year is “A Call to Conscience, a Call to Action.”

On Jan. 18, at 7:30 p.m. at the Virginia Theater, 203 W. Park St., Champaign, Beauchamp will present his film (featured on “60 Minutes” and “The Tavis Smiley Show”), which took more than eight years to complete. Narrated by poet and activist Sonia Sanchez, the movie focuses on the Emmett Till murder case and the people who experienced its repercussions firsthand. The case is considered a major catalyst of the U.S. civil rights movement.

In May 2004, the U.S. Department of Justice opened a new investigation, based on evidence suggesting that more than a dozen people may have been involved in Till’s murder. The evidence was provided by Beauchamp, who uncovered new witnesses for his movie. Beauchamp will take questions from the audience after the screening.

Benson will deliver the celebration’s keynote address, “Live on Purpose: Celebrating the Legacy of Emmett Till,” at 4 p.m. Jan. 20 in the auditorium of Smith Hall, 805 S. Mathews Ave., Urbana. A reception and book signing will follow the talk.

Other events, free and open to the public:

Jan. 20
• 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Movie: “Injustice” (2001), Room 101, Armory Building,
505 E. Armory Ave., Champaign

Jan. 22
• 2 to 5 p.m. Community event: “Stories of Our People,” Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, 500 S. Goodwin Ave., Urbana. Performers include Dawn Blackman, a Champaign storyteller; the presentation of the Martin Luther King Jr. Essay Contest awards to winners from local middle and high schools; the Protégé Dance Group of Champaign; Chinese Scholars and Students Association Ethnic Dance Group; Larry Lockwood, an American Indian storyteller from Chicago; the U. of I. Raas Team (South Asian dance); Sancocho Music and Dance Collage of Indianapolis.

Jan. 25

• 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Movie: “Bread and Roses” (2000), Room 101, Armory Building

Jan. 26
• 7 to 9 p.m. Student and faculty discussion: “Diverse Perspectives on Campus and in America: Finding and Exercising Your Voice,” Illini Room C and the South Lounge, Illini Union, 1401 W. Green St., Urbana. The panel will debate issues including the supposed liberal domination of academia, racial discrimination, religious intolerance, gender inequality and the misunderstanding of sexual orientation.

Jan. 27
• 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Movie: “If You Were Me” (2004; in Korean with English subtittles), Room 101 Armory Building