MLK Day celebration features Carlotta LaNier of Little Rock 9, new march route on Jan. 17

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. marching

With keynote speaker Carlotta LaNier of the “Little Rock Nine” and a new march route, the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration on Jan. 17 promises to be better than ever. 

And more involvement — especially from CSU students — is a primary focus this year. 

Colorado State University is partnering with the City of Fort Collins, Poudre School District and Front Range Community College to sponsor the community-building event. This year’s march will be a particularly powerful in-person experience after being held virtually last year due to the pandemic. 

This year, King’s family is urging lawmakers and President Joe Biden to pass federal voting rights bills before MLK Day, and is encouraging supporters to do the same. The Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act have stalled in Congress, and King’s family is calling for the measures to receive the same urgent attention that the recent $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill received.

More progress needed

Organizers say that while there is still a long way to go in continuing King’s work, opportunities like this both bring communities together to celebrate his impact and remind people that there is still much work to do. 

 “We are looking forward to having a great turnout for this important event, which not only celebrates our achievements but emphasizes the need for much more progress in the areas of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice,” said Bridgette Johnson, CSU assistant vice president for inclusive excellence. “CSU and our partners are truly invested in making our community more socially just and inclusive.” 

The Jan. 17 celebration begins at 11 a.m. at Washington Park with opening remarks by Claudia Menéndez, chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer for the City of Fort Collins. A new march route will take participants past homes where some of the community’s first African Americans lived, and, as in past years, the march will end at CSU’s Lory Student Center ballrooms with a special program. 

MLK March

About LaNier

LaNier will speak after welcome remarks from community leaders. She was one of the students in the “Little Rock Nine,” whom Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus prevented from enrolling in racially segregated Little Rock Central High School in 1957 until an intervention by President Dwight Eisenhower. 

“Part of enacting the changes that Dr. King so passionately fought for is showing up, just like those brave young people did when they showed up for their education in 1957,” said CSU President Joyce McConnell. “We will all have the opportunity next month to do our own ‘showing up’ by attending the march and listening to Carlotta LaNier’s story — let’s not waste it. I urge all faculty, staff and students to come together on Jan. 17 and make our own powerful statement of support for both Dr. King’s work and our community.” 

As part of the celebration, University Housing and the Black/African American Cultural Center are again partnering to collect toiletry items for the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Service Event, benefitting Homeward Alliance, a local organization that supports those experiencing homelessness.

Drop-off locations

Donations can be dropped off in the Lory Student Center at any of the following offices until Jan. 7: 

  • Asian Pacific American Cultural Center
  • Black/African American Cultural Center
  • El Centro
  • Native American Cultural Center
  • Pride Resource Center
  • Student Disability Center
  • Women and Gender Advocacy Center

Community members are encouraged to use the tag #FOCOMLK2022 when sharing posts about the event on social media. 

For more information, visit the MLK Day March and Celebration website. 

This story has been updated to correct capitalization in LaNier’s name.