Celebrating MLK legacy

Scholar, civic engagement leader to deliver keynote

Khalilah Brown-Dean, an award-winning scholar, author and community leader, will deliver the keynote address at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Legacy Celebration at Wheaton College on Tuesday, February 18, at 7 p.m. in Weber Theatre.

Brown-Dean, an associate professor of political science at Quinnipiac University, has focused her work on promoting greater civic engagement and representation for underrepresented and underserved communities. That commitment involves helping universities, corporations, community organizations, nonprofits and philanthropic institutions deepen efforts around equity issues, according to the profile on her website.

Brown-Dean, who earned a bachelor’s degree in government from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree and doctorate in political science from Ohio State University, is a recognized authority on issues of criminal punishment, mass incarceration, voting rights and U.S. elections.

She is co-author of Fifty Years of the Voting Rights Act: The State of Race in Politics for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, and her work is published in numerous scholarly journals, including the National Political Science Review. Her commentary also has been featured in numerous media outlets, including NPR, Fox News Radio, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. 

Read more about her honors, scholarly work and commentary on her website.

In addition to Brown-Dean’s keynote address, Wheaton’s annual celebration also will feature the Creative Arts Showcase and the presentation of awards.

The showcase highlights work submitted by students that offers tangible reflection on King’s philosophies and principles of equity, justice and peace. And each year Wheaton presents the prestigious MLK Legacy Award, which recognizes one student and one faculty or staff member who, through their actions and leadership, are helping the college community to live in a manner that is consistent with King’s values.

“I enjoy the MLK program because it gives us an opportunity as a campus to reflect on his work and contributions. Sometimes we feel we are very removed and that these figures are past history. We are still fighting for the same rights nationally and are still working to address injustice,” said Raquel Ramos, who is dean of the Marshall Center for Intercultural Learning and a member of Wheaton’s Diversity, Equity and Access Leadership’s Education and Programming Group, which coordinates the Martin Luther King., Jr., celebration.

“The showcase provides students with an opportunity to not only reflect on those values of equity, peace and justice, but also allows them to share their learning and understanding in creative ways,” Ramos said. “The submissions have been thoughtful and creative and can bring us together to hear one another’s stories and experiences.”

Judging by her work, keynote speaker Brown-Dean is keenly aware of how the sharing of stories and experiences can bring communities together, particularly around issues that can spark heated debate. She has noted in prior speaking engagements that addressing conflict and issues around inequity and injustice can be challenging and create discomfort, but the discussions are critical to what she describes as inclusive growth.
The events of the day are as follows:

  • Creative Arts Showcase, 11 a.m.–5 p.m., Emerson Dining
  • Reception with contest entrants, 4:30–5:30 p.m., Emerson Dining
  • MLK Legacy Celebration with Khalilah Brown-Dean, 7–9 p.m, Weber Theatre
  • Book signing and reception with Khalilah Brown-Dean, 9 p.m., Haas Concourse, Watson Fine Arts

Tickets are free, but must be reserved in advance at the box office.