Missouri Southern State University will hold its annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration on Monday, Jan. 20, in the North End Zone building.
But it will look different this year — it's no longer a breakfast followed by a day of service and volunteerism at local nonprofits and charities. Instead, it will feature an evening program preceded by an hour of entertainment and refreshments.
Those changes are intended to better serve the MSSU community, for which Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a day off, said Lori Musser, coordinator of student disability services who chairs the diversity and inclusion advisory committee, the group in charge of planning the event.
"We just wanted to take a chance and change it up this year to get more campus involvement," she said. "We felt like maybe it was a little difficult for (students) to make it to a breakfast in the morning. We're hoping that by moving it to the evening, that might encourage more students, faculty and staff to attend."
The day of service was eliminated this year because the number of people signing up to volunteer at local organizations had dropped, and a few organizations were reporting that some volunteers didn't show up after registering, Musser said.
"We thought we would promote volunteerism throughout the year instead of just that one day," she said.
The theme for this year’s event is “Music — A Universal Stepping Stone Toward Peace.” Doors will open at 6 p.m., and refreshments will be served. Kufara, a marimba ensemble, will perform.
Nimrod Chapel Jr., president of the Missouri State Conference of the NAACP, will be the guest speaker during a program beginning at 7 p.m.
Chapel is an experienced trial attorney with more than a decade of practice. He was responsible for a broad array of litigation regarding enforcement of civil rights, discrimination, consumer protection, wage and accessibility laws throughout Missouri. He is an active member of the Missouri Bar, currently serving on the board of governors for the Western District, and he is involved with numerous community not-for-profit groups, and civic and professional organizations.
The event is free and open to the public. An RSVP is preferred by contacting Stacey Clay at Clay-S@mssu.edu.
The MLK celebration is sponsored by the MSSU Student Activities Office, Commerce Bank, the Islamic Society of Joplin, The Joplin Globe, Owens Corning, Residence Inn by Marriot-Joplin, the MSSU Show-Me GOLD Program, Student Veterans Organization, Missouri National Guard, Carver Birthplace Association, Fox 14/KOAM, South Joplin Christian Church, U.S. Bank, College Heights Christian Church, the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, Joplin Metro Credit Union, NAACP of Southwest Missouri and Ozark Christian College.