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MLK Day event will revolve around the arts

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The arts – spoken and written words, vocal music and visual creations – will be the hub around which this year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration at Bethel College revolves.

This year’s program will be in Krehbiel Auditorium of the Fine Arts Center on the Bethel campus, beginning at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 17, the federal King holiday.

Cheryl Jefferson Bell, pastor at Trinity Heights United Methodist Church in Newton, will emcee the event.

The featured speaker is Mark McCormick, communications director for the Kansas Leadership Center in Wichita and a former columnist for the Wichita Eagle. McCormick has spoken several times on the Bethel campus, including convocation presentations and the 2009 commencement address. His topic for Jan. 17 is “A Choice of Weapons.”

The title comes from Gordon Parks’ 1967 autobiography and is “all about choosing the weapon of nonviolence, instead of violence, as a means of dealing with conflict,” said Dale Schrag, Bethel campus pastor and a member of Bethel’s MLK Day celebration planning group. “In fact, that’s [also] the title of a semester-long course on nonviolence being taught in all Wichita middle schools starting next year.

“Mark is quite pumped about this, as am I,” Schrag added.

Also on the program is poetry reading. Bridget Kratzer will read “America” by Langston Hughes and Sammie Simmons will read excerpts from Mary McLeod Bethune’s “Last Will and Testament.” Kratzer and Simmons are both Bethel alumni from Newton.

In addition, the winners of a campus poetry-reading contest will share poems. The contest, which is open to Bethel College students, faculty and staff, will take place in Mojo’s coffee shop Thursday, Jan. 13, with readings in two categories, “Original Work” and “Published Favorites.”

“Poems need to present themes consistent with the life and passion of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., including the topics of peace and nonviolent conflict resolution, celebrating diversity and African or African-American poems,” said Chad Childs, vice president for student life. The judges at the reading will look for consistency with themes, physical presence, voice and articulation, evidence of understanding, appropriate dramatization and passion, overall performance, and the poem’s originality, creativity and artistic quality.

Interspersing the poetry reading will be songs by Bethel alumna Roz (Royster) McCommon, Kansas City, Mo., a well-known vocalist.

The program is free and open to the public. There will be a freewill offering taken to benefit Bethel’s African-American Alumni Association Scholarship fund.

Before and after, attenders are invited to look at artwork on display in the halls outside Krehbiel Auditorium. The art is by students at Northridge and Slate Creek Elementary Schools, under the direction of LaDonna Voth and Beth Burns, respectively.

One year ago, Bethel’s MLK Day events celebrated the 50th anniversary of a speech that King gave on the Bethel campus in January 1960, and introduced a recently discovered, digitized recording of the speech.

While the King Center in Atlanta holds the rights to the speech and is the source for purchasing a copy, both a recording and a transcript are available for listening or research purposes in the Mennonite Library and Archives at Bethel College.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2010-11 Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States and is in the first tier in its category in the U.S. News & World Report annual ranking of “America’s Top Colleges” for 2011. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu

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