Former NAACP President Jealous, Bishop McKenzie Highlight Duke's MLK Commemoration Events

Benjamin Jealous, youngest person to lead the nation's largest civil rights organization, will deliver the keynote address on Jan. 19

Former NAACP national president Benjamin Jealous will deliver the keynote address for Duke University's annual Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration on Sunday, Jan. 19.

His 3 p.m. speech in Duke Chapel is part of a program that includes remarks from local and university officials, prayer, and music and dance performances. 

The event is free and open to the public. Free parking is available in the Bryan Center Parking Garage (

Those unable to attend can watch a live stream of the event on the chapel's website, Viewers can post comments on Twitter using the hashtag #DukeMLK. An archive of the recording will also be posted online.

Earlier that day, Vashti Murphy MacKenzie, the first female elected as bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, will deliver a sermon referencing the life of King during Duke Chapel’s 11 a.m. Sunday worship service.

This year's MLK commemoration theme, "50 Years: Backwards or Forward?," complements the recent 50th anniversary of Duke's first black undergraduate students, evokes the 1963 March on Washington and looks ahead to the 50th anniversary year of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

"The theme really came out of the discussion about the nation being at one of those critical points where there are significant challenges to the progress we've made over the decades and even some moves backwards," said Benjamin Reese, co-chair of the MLK Planning Committee and vice president for Duke's Office for Institutional Equity.

Jealous, former national president and CEO of the NAACP, has been a prominent crusader for economic justice and empowerment. He worked to attract a younger generation of members with a wider vision of civil rights that addresses contemporary concerns. Under his leadership from 2008 to last month, the nation's largest civil rights organization has defended voting rights, worked to abolish death-penalty laws in at least four states, opposed "stop-and-frisk" police tactics and stand-your-ground laws, and embraced gay rights in a historic 2012 vote. Today the number of NAACP members tops one million.

Other highlights of the Duke Chapel program include performances by the 100 Men in Black choir and the Collage Dance Company, as well as greetings from Duke University President Richard Brodhead, Duke Hospital President Kevin Sowers, Duke Black Student Association President Marcus Benning and Durham Mayor Pro Tem Cora Cole-McFadden.

Other campus events, which are all free and open to the public, include:

-- 6:30-7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17, Sanford School for Public Policy, Room 04: A screening with refreshments of "Mighty Times -- The Children's March," about the Birmingham civil rights march. Winner of the 2005 Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject, it was co-produced by the Southern Poverty Law Center and HBO;

-- 11 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 19, Duke Chapel: Vashti Murphy McKenzie will deliver a sermon referencing the life of King during Duke Chapel's Sunday worship service. Those unable to attend can watch a live stream of the event on the chapel's website,;

-- 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 20, Phail Wynn Jr. Student Services Center, Durham Technical Community College: Students from Duke, North Carolina Central University, Durham Tech and members of the Durham Rotary Club are coordinating the Million Meals Project, which is expected to package 100,000 meals to support Stop Hunger Now. Sign up to help package meals during one of four available volunteer shifts: 9–11 a.m., 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., 2–4 p.m., or 4:30–6:30 p.m. Volunteers are encouraged to bring a canned food donation to support the efforts of the Durham Branch of the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina. To register:;

-- Noon-1 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21, Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI), Lower Level Lecture Hall, 2400 Pratt St.: Dr. Delbert R. Wigfall, associate dean for medical education and a professor of pediatrics, will deliver the keynote speech for DCRI's annual MLK Day Celebration. Light refreshments will be available in the North Pavilion Atrium (just outside the lecture hall) beginning at 11:40 a.m. Paid parking is available in the North Pavilion deck. The H2 Loop campus bus stops at PG3, which is located at North Pavilion. Watch a live webcast or archived video of the program here.

Learn more about this year's commemoration, including an updated listing of events, at

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Transit/Parking Adjustments for the MLK Holiday

Because of expected high turnout for the Jan. 20 campus MLK event, Duke is changing parking and transit schedules for that day. For the schedule, click here.