EMU to host MLK Jr. Celebration

Eastern Mennonite University honors Martin Luther King Jr Day on Sunday, Jan. 15, and Monday, Jan. 16.

Immanuel Mennonite Church, 400 Kelley St. in Harrisonburg, will be the site of a worship service Sunday from 3-5 p.m.

A screening of the documentary “On These Grounds” (see below for a description) will be from 6-8 p.m. in the gathering space of Old Common Grounds in the University Commons.

Monday’s activities begin with a 9 a.m. Speak Out and March in the Student Union, featuring alumnus Christian Parks. 

The convocation at 10:10 a.m. in Lehman Auditorium includes leaders featured in the documentary “On These Grounds” with The Rev. Vincent Jones, pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Bedford, Virginia. View the livestream on Facebook Live from our EMU Facebook page. (You do not need a Facebook account or page to access Facebook Live, nor does clicking on the link obligate you in any way to Facebook.) 

Other events include an annual campus-focused event called “Let’s Talk About Race,” hosted by the Black Student Alliance; drumming with CJP alumnus and Richmond-based educator Rahm Bhagat; and a session on local African American history, hosted by Professor Mark Sawin and members of the Allen family. This last event is from 3-4:15 p.m. in University Commons 211/212.

A poetry reading, hosted by Parks, starts at 6:30 p.m. in the Student Union.

More on the convocation speaker

Rev. Vincent Walter Jones is a Danville native and in his ninth year as pastor at Mount Zion. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in counseling at Virginia Tech. He became a member of The Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., Eta Lambda Chapter in the fall of 1994. He currently resides in Lynchburg, Virginia and is the proud father of daughters Nia, Zoe, and Laila Grace. 

He is an elementary school counselor and a mental health therapist. He formerly was foster care and adoption supervisor for the City of Lynchburg where he specialized in the completion of adoptions, while assisting hundreds of families and children return home with assistance, structure and services. He is also the former assistant director of programs for Hughes Memorial Home for Children with significant behavioral and emotional difficulties. 

Jones coached track at Heritage High, where he led the team to five championships. He has also coached little league football and chaired the board for Hill City Football and Cheer Program. Among other service-oriented activities, he is chaplain and committee chairman for service and giving for the Gamma Omega Chapter (Lynchburg) of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. He was voted Omega Man of the Year for 2021-22.

More about ‘On These Grounds’

A video goes viral, showing a white police officer in South Carolina pull a Black teenager from her school desk and throw her across the floor. Healer-activist Vivian Anderson uproots her life in New York City to move to South Carolina to support the girl and dismantle the system behind the assault at Spring Valley, including facing the police officer. Adding context, geographer Janae Davis treks the surrounding swamps and encounters the homes of formerly enslaved people of African descent, connecting the past to the present. Against the backdrop of a racial reckoning and its deep historical roots, one incident illuminates how Black girls, with the support of organizers, are creating a more just and equitable future for themselves and our entire education system.