An illustration of Martin Luther King, Jr. in front of an American flag

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebrations

Thank you to all who attended our annual community conversation programming and participated in the day of service! We look forward to seeing you at next year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations.

Meet the 2024 Keynote Speaker: Kevin Powell

Kevin Powell

Author Kevin Powell will serve as keynote speaker for PNW’s annual MLK Day recognition.

Kevin Powell, a 2024 Grammy-nominated poet, is one of the most celebrated political, cultural, literary, and hip-hop voices in America. The Jersey City product of a single mother, absent father, horrific poverty, and violence, he was able to study at Rutgers University in his home state of New Jersey due to the Educational Opportunity Fund, a program created during the Civil Rights Movement to benefit poor youth. Says Kevin, “Just to be able to get to college, to be exposed to a new world, a new way, changed my life forever, and I am forever grateful for the chance.”

Kevin has gone on to be a poet and journalist and the author of 16 books, such as Grocery Shopping with My Mother, his new collection of poetry; and his critically acclaimed autobiography, The Education of Kevin Powell: A Boy’s Journey into Manhood, which is being adapted for the screen. His most recent book is The Kevin Powell Reader, a collection of his writings, interviews, and speeches covering three decades; and his biography of Tupac Shakur, who Kevin interviewed several times while a senior writer for Quincy Jones’ Vibe.

Indeed, he has penned articles, essays, and blogs for a wide range of newspapers and magazines and major websites, like The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, The Nation, NPR, ESPN, Essence, Ebony, Rolling Stone, Esquire, HuffPost, Utne Reader, The Guardian, The Baffler, The Progressive, Complex, and British GQ.

As a civil and human rights activist, Kevin will launch a new American digital site in 2024, yet to be named, focused on voter education and voter empowerment, and bringing people together, and which will showcase a website full of blogs from contributors of diverse backgrounds.

Kevin’s activism has also included an annual clothing drive for homeless youth in New York City; a leadership role in the movement to re-define manhood away from sexism and violence; a deep responsibility to mentorship and development of people of every age as agents for change; and a commitment to democracy, justice, diversity, inclusion, and equality for the American people, be it education, #MeToo, immigrant rights, gun violence prevention, marriage equality, economic opportunity, healthcare access, or an end to racial profiling.

To further demonstrate that commitment to a life of service Kevin ran for Congress in his adopted hometown of New York City in 2008 and 2010; he has lectured and worked and traveled in all 50 American states and 5 of the world’s 7 continents; he is directing, writing, and producing his first documentary film, titled “When We Free The World,” about healthy manhood versus toxic manhood, about fathers and sons; and Kevin is the playwright of an upcoming stage play, based on the poems in Grocery Shopping with My Mother. Kevin is a proud and long-time resident of Brooklyn, New York.

Shontrai Irving stands in the middle of a classroom. Students and staff are sititng at the tables.

Purdue Northwest celebrates MLK Day

Purdue University Northwest (PNW) hosted its annual MLK Day recognition through community conversations on social justice topics and volunteer service opportunities.

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History of the MLK Community Celebrations at PNW

For decades now, the Purdue University Northwest campuses have partnered with the community to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

In 1992, PNW’s Hammond campus held its first MLK celebration, “The Dream: Diversity and Pluralism in Higher Education.” Professor Marcellus Barksdale, professor of history at Morehouse College, was the keynote speaker. The Brunswick Elementary School Choir (Gary) was the special guest.

In 1996, the MLK celebration started on PNW’s Westville campus when 12-year-old Michigan City resident Sarah asked her mother, Felicia Thomas, on several occasions why Michigan City did not have events to acknowledge and remember Dr. King’s Life. As a result, Felicia and Samara McNeal established a vision of a city-wide celebration of the life of Martin Luther King. They invited others to join in the vision, and annual community events and festivals have occurred ever since in collaboration with numerous community partners and organizations.

Combining the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of our two campuses, Purdue University Northwest will celebrate the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in a multi-day event. Please support our continued efforts and quest to remember Dr. King’s dream and legacy of equity, inclusion and justice.

Sponsorship Opportunities

Community sponsors are welcome for Purdue University Northwest’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebrations. If you’re interested in sponsorship opportunities, please contact Don Babcock, director of economic development and community relations, at or (219) 746-6115.

Dreamer ($7,500+)


Justice Seeker ($2,500)

  • Horizon Bank
  • Shive-Hattery

Silence Breaker ($1,000)

  • Urban League of Northwest Indiana

Marcher ($500)

  • Sinai Temple of Michigan City

Sponsorship Levels

Dreamer – $7,500


Benefits include the opportunity to introduce or make remarks prior to the speaker livestream and receive logo recognition on screen.

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed…”

– I Have a Dream, 1963

Justice-Seeker – $2,500


Benefits include logo and name recognition on screen and on banners or easels at the reception.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

– Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963

Silence-Breaker – $1,000


Benefits include the opportunity to make remarks prior to the community conversation and receive logo recognition on screen.

“…I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart…”

– Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence, 1967

Marcher – $1,000


Benefits include logo and name recognition on screen and on banners or easels at the reception.

“Like an idea whose time has come, not even the marching of mighty armies can halt us.”

– Our God is Marching On, 1965

To request a disability-related accommodation, please contact the Office of Institutional Equity at or (219) 989-2163 five days prior to the event.