EMU hosts MLK Day Celebration 2022

NOTE: The Sunday 1/16 performance of “Anne and Emmett” is cancelled due to weather.

Eastern Mennonite University will host the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration of Legacy, Service and Learning Friday, Jan. 14, through Monday, Jan. 17. Some events are limited to EMU students, faculty, and staff [view the full schedule at www.emu.edu/mlk]

This year’s MLK Day theme centers around King’s words from Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story (1958):  “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

Public Invited

Events open to the public include:

  • Saturday, Jan. 15: 2 p.m., live performance of Anne and Emmett, Lehman Auditorium. Masks are required. Limited to 100 in the audience. $5. Tickets available here.
  • CANCELLED: Sunday, Jan. 16: 5 p.m. live performance of Anne and Emmett, Lehman Auditorium. THIS PERFORMANCE IS CANCELLED.
  • Monday, Jan 17:
    • 7 a.m., noon and 7 p.m. EST. VIRTUAL: “Dancing Resilience.” Join a 20-minute dance session via Zoom. Click this link to join. Dancing Resilience honors Alice Walker’s belief that “Hard times require furious dancing.” Hosted by STAR lead trainer Katie Mansfield. Music playlists will lift up the struggle for liberation.
    • 10 a.m. VIRTUAL. Convocation, celebration and worship with The Rev. Glen Guyton, executive director of Mennonite Church USA. Watch the livestream at EMU’s Facebook Live page [you do not need a member to participate].
    • 4:15 p.m. VIRTUAL. Anne and Emmett talkback with producer Celeste Thomas, director of EMU’s Multicultural Student Services and Bob Berrson, Jewish Scholar in Residence at EMU’s Center for Interfaith Engagement programming and a retired James Madison University professor. Watch the livestream at EMU’s Facebook Live page [you do not need a member to participate].

EMU students, faculty and staff are invited to live performances of Anne and Emmett on Friday, Jan. 14, at 6 p.m. and Monday, Jan. 17, at 3:30 p.m. Free with EMU ID; no ticket required. Check the MLK Day webpage for more information about other events for EMU students, faculty, and staff.

More on Anne and Emmett

Janet Langhart Cohen’s play Anne and Emmett is a special production sponsored with grants from Interfaith Youth Core, the Arts Council of the Valley, EMU Multicultural Student Services and the EMU Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. It is produced by Celeste Thomas and directed by Ezrionna Prioleau ’17.

“This play aims to create dialogue around race, religion, oppression, healing and reconciliation,” said Thomas. Her motivation to produce the play is linked strongly to the “continuation of hate” in the world today, she added. “I wanted to bring Anne and Emmett’s stories to light. We must never forget that their lives were short-lived but meaningful.”

“Anne and Emmett” tells the story of Anne Frank, a Jewish child killed in the Holocaust, and Emmett Till, a teenager murdered in Mississippi, and their parents, who refused to be silent in sharing the stories of the hate that killed their children.

 Harrisonburg Mayor Deanna Reed, a member of EMU’s Board of Trustees, joins students Greta Schrag, Thaddeus Jackson, Isaac Longacre and Andrew Stoltzfus to present the stories of Emmett Till and Anne Frank and their parents, Otto Frank and Mamie Till.

Prioleau has been working to direct this play at EMU since 2019, when she first discovered it.

“Anne Frank and Emmett Till were two children who were unable to escape the hate in the worlds they lived in,” she writes in her director’s notes. “Mamie Till-Mobley and Otto Frank both lost their children …They both spoke up and told the world what happened, Mamie with a picture and Otto with words. The parallels in their stories are important and without them we may have never known about what hate was doing.”

Read more from Thomas and Prioleau as well as composer Joshua Overacker ‘21 in the play program. 

The production crew includes several alumni:

  • Prioleau, a 2017 graduate of EMU’s theater program, is a graduate student in the MDiv and MA in organizational leadership programs. She has acted, produced, directed and designed scenery and lighting for multiple productions.
  • Composer Joshua Overacker ‘21 contributed original compositions. 
  • Costume designer Hailey Holcomb ‘17 is a graduate student at Eastern Mennonite Seminary. As a graduate of EMU’s theater program, she has worked for EMU theater in various capacities,  including stage management, scene shop crew, props, costuming, acting, and her current role as a production assistant.
  • Lighting designer Robert Weaver ‘18 is a freelance theater artist in Washington D.C. and Baltimore, currently working as a stagehand and lighting designer at the Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University. He recently enjoyed working with Step Afrika! as an assistant master electrician for their touring production of The Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence.
  • Production assistant Akiel Baker ‘21 is a residence director at EMU. He is pursuing a master’s degree in social work and working as a site coordinator for On the Road Collaborative, a nonprofit based in Harrisonburg dedicated to closing the learning gap and empowering youth.
  • Media designer Kara Painter ‘18, an EMU visual and communications arts graduate, recently earned her MBA and Master’s in Health Administration degree from Mary Baldwin University.
  • The crew also includes student Jareya Harder, stage manager, and EMU faculty member Shannon Dove, scene designer.