Colorado State University and Fort Collins will celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 16, with a community march as well as a keynote by poet and political activist JC Futrell — known by the stage name Panama Soweto.
Panama Soweto, an acclaimed spoken-word poet, played a key role in successfully leading a grassroots campaign to rename Denver’s Stapleton neighborhood, which was named after former Denver Mayor Benjamin Stapleton, who was a member of the KKK in the 1920s.
In conjunction with the keynote, the theme of this year’s celebration is titled Violence. Oppression. Isolation. Cannot. Endure. (V.O.I.C.E.).
“We are combining the strength of individual and interconnected campaigns against all forms of discrimination and disadvantage,” said Bridgette Johnson, assistant vice president for inclusive excellence at CSU. “Hundreds of neighbors, students, faculty and employees will walk united in celebration of our common goal of delivering the founding promises of freedom, justice and equality to everyone in America.”
The annual community march on Jan. 16 starts at 11 a.m. at Washington Park (301 Maple St.). From Washington Park, the march will head north to Cherry Street, west to Meldrum Street, and south back to campus, ending at the Lory Student Center. The route, approximately 1.3 miles, features several historical Black houses located on Meldrum Street.
The keynote will start at the Lory Student Center shortly after the march ends at 12:45 p.m.
Panama Soweto, who has been featured on National Public Radio and has previously spoken at CSU, challenges ideas about bullying, single-parenthood, sexual abuse, self-advocacy and discrimination through his spoken word.
Born in New York, Panama Soweto was influenced by hip hop, which shaped his view of culture and art. As a child, his family moved to Denver, where he has resided since. He attended Clark University in Atlanta for a year and returned to Colorado to earn bachelor’s degrees in African American Studies and Fine Arts from the Metropolitan State University of Denver.
He was a member of the 2006 Denver Slam team that won the National Poetry Slam in Austin, Texas, and has toured the country performing at colleges and universities throughout the United States.
In addition to the march and the keynote, the Fort Collins Neighborhood Services Department is inviting neighbors across Fort Collins to set battery-powered, tea light luminaries on select days along sidewalks and driveways as an act of remembrance and solidarity with the work of Dr. King, past civil rights leaders and those who continue to fight for social justice today. For more information and to request luminary materials to participate in the vigil, visit col.st/wwoX2.