The holiday that honors the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. may not be the most-remembered event on the calendar for everyone across southwest Kansas, but the day has grown significantly in prominence since it was signed into law as a federally-recognized observance by President Ronald Reagan in 1983.
Each year, GCCC and the Cultural Relations Board of the city of Garden City come together to co-sponsor a community program for Martin Luther King Day, and the guest presenters in the past have included:
* Figures from the American Civil Rights movement
* Speakers with messages of inspiration and diversity
* Scholars and authors on topics such as racial and cultural harmony.
In 2012, we even heard from the grandson of the legendary Mahatma Gandhi.
This year, the celebration and program will be taking place at 10 a.m. Monday in the main gym of the Dennis Perryman Athletic Complex, and the keynote presenter will be Chuck D, leader and co-founder of the legendary rap group Public Enemy.
Political activist and author
While some might see this as a departure from the past, Chuck D is not only a well known rapper, but also a respected political activist and author of two critically acclaimed books. The campus and community program is free and open to the public, with co-sponsorship from the GCCC Student Government Association and the Brookover Lecture Series, through the GCCC Endowment Association.
Chuck D has been credited with redefining rap music and hip hop culture with the release of Public Enemy's debut album back in 1987. Critics noted him for articulating realities faced by black Americans in the late 20th Century, and since that time, Public Enemy has continued to stress the importance of history and self-determination in overcoming adversity.
The group has since released 13 albums, toured 63 countries and influenced social justice struggles and political activism around the world. Rolling Stone magazine listed Chuck D and Public Enemy in 2004 as one of the "50 most important performers in rock and roll history." In 2007, the rapper was named among the 100 Most Influential Black Americans by Ebony Magazine, and Public Enemy recently was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Our speaker wrote the foreword for the 2011 book, "The Legends of Hip-Hop," which honors artists, athletes and political figures through original works of art. His own books include the following:
* "Fight the Power: Rap, Race and Reality"
* "Lyrics of a Rap Revolutionary"
This will be our first appearance by a rap artist, and Chuck D should have some significant things to say in his message to the students and for the community.
He was born as Douglas Ridenhour on Aug. 1, 1960, and has been featured or interviewed in more than 50 documentaries on music, technology, politics and race. In addition, he has appeared in numerous public service announcements for national peace endeavors and has been a national spokesperson affiliated with:
* The Partnership for a Drug Free America
* Rock the Vote
* The National Urban League
* Americans for the Arts Council
* The National Alliance for African-American Athletes.
He hosted ESPN's "Ali Raps" program, addressing the poetry and politics of Muhammad Ali. In addition, for the past five years he has hosted "On the Real Off the Record" for Air America, with interviews of leading figures in politics and music. He also has continued his career in music and writing on topics ranging from technology, race and politics to rap and soul music.
Among his latest projects are "Tear Down That Wall," a single about U.S.-Mexico border divisions; and involvement with a Time-Life three-CD album, "Let Freedom Sing: The Music of the Civil Rights Movement." He is scheduled to appear in a follow-up motion picture about the civil rights struggle soon.
In addition to the keynote address, the program will include:
* Presentations of African-American prose and poetry by GCCC students
* Music from the choir of Mount Zion Church of God in Christ, here in Garden City.
You're invited to share in this campus and community celebration of American civil rights and hear the perspectives of someone who can interpret the King legacy for the 21st Century.