The university’s School of Law began the festivities with a film screening followed by a panel discussion Thursday, Jan. 18. The film, titled “Rikers: An American Jail,” is a documentary exploring the human crisis and toll of mass incarceration. The event was held at 6 p.m. in the the Honorable J. Karen Williams Courtroom at the new School of Law building at 1525 Senate St. The panel featured I.S. Leevy Johnson, former South Carolina representative and current criminal defense attorney; Henrie Monteith Treadwell, Carolina alumna and internationally recognized public health expert; Benny Custodio, former Rikers inmate and current prison reform advocate; Jerry Blasingame, former South Carolina prison inmate and current executive director of Soteria Community Development Corporation; Seth Stoughton, university law professor and policing scholar; and Aaron Greene, Black Law Students Association social action chair. WIS-TV news anchor Judi Gatson moderated the panel and law professor Derek Black made remarks.
The annual Martin Luther King Jr. commemorative breakfast was held at 7:30 a.m. Friday, Jan. 19, in “The Zone” at Williams-Brice Stadium. The university presented the annual Social Justice Awards to faculty, staff and students who have worked to promote equality and justice at the university and in the greater community. The winners are: Michele Myers, a clinical associate professor and MAT program coordinator in the College of Education; Ken Campbell, an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications; Daizha Green, a senior early childhood education major in the College of Education; and Sarah Keeling, manager of student services in the School of Library and Information Science.
Each year the breakfast draws nearly 500 people from the community and campus.
Commemoration events concluded on Sunday, Jan. 21 with a performance titled “Freedom Rings: An artistic celebration of the life of Dr. Martin L. King Jr.,” formerly the MLK Gospel Fest. The event included pieces from the Columbia Children's Community Choir; Resonance Quartet; Columbia City Ballet; Jim "Soni" Sonefeld; the Terrance Young Jazz Band; the Carolina Collegiate Super Choir featuring the University of South Carolina, Claflin University, South Carolina State University, Allen University, Benedict College and Columbia College; plus additional celebrations of music and dance.