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Creighton to Host a Number of Events for Martin Luther King Jr. Week

Jan 12, 2022
5 min Read
Cindy Workman
poster for MLK event

Creighton University this month will celebrate the life and legacy of the late Martin Luther King Jr. and share his messages of the dignity of all humankind and the importance of overcoming the complacency of superficial optimism, or the constraints of deadening pessimism, in building brotherhood and sisterhood.

The work of achieving the American ideal that all people are created equal in the sight of God, and that the promises of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness apply to all, requires us to remain “maladjusted” to the numbing power of inertia, said Sarah Walker, PhD, vice president of Creighton’s Division of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.


“We take our hope and inspiration from Dr. King’s historic 1964 speech, given while accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, when he refused to ‘accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality,’” Walker said.


“We embrace Dr. King’s conviction that we can, while avoiding the twin temptations of superficial optimism or deadening pessimism, continue to walk the path to equality and inclusion.”

“As Creighton University begins its journey into 2022, we recommit ourselves to the pursuit of racial justice in all that we do,” said the Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, PhD, president of Creighton University. “The pathway is long and challenging, but during the coming week when we honor the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., we will promote the healings and recoveries from brokenness that we all must embrace if we are to complete the journey.”

In this spirit of action, Creighton University will observe Martin Luther King Jr. Week from Jan. 14-18 with a series of events ranging from discussions of voting in America, systemic racism, and racial healing, to a student essay contest and a public festival.

The schedule for the week appears below. Please visit the MLK website for registration information and links to virtual events. Please note: Attendees at all in-person events are required to wear a face covering as part of Creighton’s COVID-19 protocols.

Friday, Jan. 14
A Conversation on Voting with Atiba Ellis, JD, (Exploring the History of Voting and the Present State of Voting in America)
hosted by the Creighton University Black Law Students Association.
Noon–1 p.m. | Ahmanson Law Center, Room 124. In-person event only.

Atiba Ellis, JD, professor of law at Marquette University Law School, will explore the topic of voting in America, starting with the mid-1900s to the present. The conversation will explore the difficulties involved with voting for persons of color throughout history and how past barriers have been recreated in the present. The discussion will highlight how votes have been weaponized against parties and voting groups.

Monday, Jan. 17
MLK Day Faculty/Staff Panel Discussion

10 a.m. | Virtual event only.

To mark the second year in which Martin Luther King Jr. Day has been observed as an official Creighton University holiday, a faculty/staff discussion will be held virtually. The panel will feature Marcus Blossom, MSSM, MBA, Creighton’s newly appointed McCormick Endowed Athletic Director, who came to Creighton in September from College of the Holy Cross; Creighton alumna, Shawntal Mallory Smith, BA’97, JD’00, who is general counsel at the Omaha Home for Boys and a frequent presenter on diversity and inclusion topics both within the legal community and the community at large; and Patrick Saint-Jean, SJ, PsyD, a regent at Creighton University and author of The Spiritual Work of Racial Justice: A Month of Meditations with Ignatius of Loyola (Anamchara 2021).

MLK for Community Day
Noon–4 p.m. | Kiewit Fitness Center
Creighton students, faculty and staff may engage in fellowship while living out our Catholic and Jesuit mission by participating in a collective service activity. Participants will cut and tie blankets for the elderly, sort materials and package winter packs for those experiencing homelessness, while learning more about Creighton’s weeklong celebration of MLK Jr.’s legacy. 

Tuesday, Jan. 18
Unity Prayer Luncheon.
Both an in-person and virtual event.
11:30 a.m.–1 p.m. | Mike and Josie Harper Center, Ahmanson Ballroom 

“Avoid Superficial Optimism, Avoid Deadening Pessimism, Remain Maladjusted (Unsatisfied with Social Circumstances)”

Keynote Speaker:
Byron D’Andra Orey, PhD. Orey is professor and former chair of the political science department at Jackson State University, and a W.K. Kellogg fellow with the Kellogg Foundation. Upon receiving his PhD from the University of New Orleans, Orey taught at the University of Mississippi, was tenured and promoted to associate professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and currently teaches at Jackson State University. Orey’s researches the areas of race, politics and social justice, focusing on the psychology of Black trauma, implicit bias, voting rights, police reform and systemic racism. As the director of the Jackson Political Science Research Laboratory, Orey has established a pipeline of students of color entering PhD programs. Over the past 10 years, 18 of his former research assistants have enrolled in some of the top PhD programs across the country.

Two major awards will be conferred at the Unity Prayer Luncheon: the Drum Major Award and the Legacy Award.


The Drum Major Award honors a person who is recognized as a moral, religious or spiritual leader who works in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to bring the religious community together; who works to promote brotherhood and sisterhood; who has served as a “drum major” for social justice; whose efforts have impacted the community significantly and inspired us to meet the challenges we face today; and who has been a leader in the struggle for equality and social justice. This year’s honoree is Gene Haynes, retired principal of Omaha North High School.


The President’s Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Award honors a person who has demonstrated distinguished civic, cultural or volunteer service; a commitment to the educational and community ideals espoused by Creighton University’s Mission Statement coupled with high personal integrity; and demonstrated commitment to the ideals of social justice and civil rights as espoused by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This year’s honoree is Ms. Ruth Matlock, a longtime employee of the Eastern Nebraska Community Action Program who for more than 40 years has been active in a variety of programs lifting North Omaha residents out of poverty, improving the life of senior citizens, informing families about assistance programs and helping young women move up their career ladders.

The Unity Prayer Luncheon will be capped at 200 attendees as a COVID-19 safety measure.

Day of Racial Healing Panel Discussion
1:30–3 p.m. | Mike and Josie Harper Center, Rooms 2057-2058. Both an in-person and virtual event.

“The 2020 COVID/BLM Connection and What it Teaches Us about Racial Healing in 2022”
Interest convergence is a tool for helping White and BIPOC communities understand their roles in racial justice and healing. It suggests that racial justice will advance only when White communities perceive that it is in their interests to support equality. The session will explore how to recognize and leverage interest convergence to create longer lasting change through awareness, healing and advocacy. Participants will leave with their own personal action plans for contributing to racial healing. 

Hosted by the Omaha Community Council for Racial Justice and Reconciliation in partnership with Creighton University and the Kingfisher Institute, the panel discussion is facilitated by:

• Nuri Heckler, JD, PhD, assistant professor, School of Public Administration, University of Nebraska at Omaha.

• Palma Strand, JD, professor of law, Conflict Resolution Program, Graduate School, Creighton University.

• Barry Thomas, senior consultant for HR and diversity, equity and inclusion with BCT Partners, LLC.