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MLK Day celebration will lift up the spoken word

January 5th, 2021

Chris Singleton

Bethel's Martin Luther King Jr. celebration will feature spoken word artist M'Vyonne Payne and national speaker Chris Singleton, on Jan. 18.

Each year, the college remembers the day in 1960 when Dr. King spoke in a packed Memorial Hall on “The Future of Integration.”

This year’s celebration takes place Jan. 18, with in-person and virtual options in line with public health guidelines surrounding COVID-19.

The public is invited to come to Krehbiel Auditorium in Luyken Fine Arts (face coverings required and physical distancing enforced) starting at 6:30 p.m. to hear Payne, followed at 7 p.m. by keynote presenter Singleton, a motivational speaker and former pro athlete.

The event will also be livestreamed at

The Bethel College Diversity Council, a student organization, along with the Bethel College Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the Office of Student Life, with support from the Bethel College Women’s Association, are sponsoring the celebration.

Payne describes herself as “a poet, author, activist and slammaster, the founder and host of FTW Slam, and an unapologetically magical black girl” from Kansas City, Mo.

FTW Slam is a monthly poetry slam open mic in downtown Kansas City.

Singleton will present a talk entitled “Love Your Neighbor.”

He played professional baseball in the Chicago Cubs organization. He now travels the country and has spoken to more than 60,000 students in schools and on campuses.

Singleton has also spread his message through various media outlets, including ESPN’s E:60, Sports Illustrated, CNN and USA Today.

Singleton is particularly motivated in his work by his mother, Sharonda Coleman Singleton, one of nine people murdered June 17, 2015, at Mother Emanuel AME church in downtown Charleston, S.C., by a young white man.

“Chris Singleton has turned tragedy into purpose,” said Linda Moyo, Bethel student from Hesston and a leader of the Diversity Council.

“He has forgiven the white man who wanted to start a race-related war in the U.S. by murdering [Singleton’s] mother, along with eight other victims, in 2015.

“Chris has dedicated his life to inspiring the nation by spreading the messages ‘Love is stronger than hate’ and ‘Love your neighbor.’”

Bethel’s celebration of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday is free and open to everyone.

Bethel is a four-year liberal arts college founded in 1887 and is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Known for academic excellence, Bethel ranks at #14 in the Washington Monthly list of “Best Bachelor’s Colleges” and #26 in U.S. News & World Report, Best Regional Colleges Midwest, and earned its third-straight NAIA Champions of Character Five-Star Gold Award, based on student service and academic achievement, all for 2020-21; is’s highest ranked Kansas small college with the highest earning graduates; has the #10 RN-to-BSN program in Kansas according to; and is #57 among 829 U.S. colleges and universities named by as “Best for Financial Aid,” as well as #23 “Safest College Towns in the U.S.,” ranked by for 2020-21. For more information, see

About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.