Skip to main content

Author and activist Maggie Anderson will keynote MLK observance

Commemoration events include performances, an exhibition and service projects
Maggie Anderson is Northwestern University’s MLK Commemoration keynote speaker Jan. 28, 2019
Maggie Anderson is Northwestern University’s MLK Commemoration keynote speaker Jan. 28, 2019

Northwestern University will commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a series of events Jan. 15 to 28. Many events are free and open to the public.

Keynote and candlelight vigil addresses

Activist Maggie Anderson’s book “Our Black Year” (co-authored with Ted Gregory) was described by Publishers Weekly as “an effective probe into how African Americans spend so much money that overwhelmingly leaves their communities.”

Anderson will provide the keynote address for Northwestern’s University-wide MLK commemoration Jan. 28, 6 p.m., in Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Drive in Evanston. Her Chicago campus talk will take place at noon Jan. 28, in Arthur Rubloff Building, Room 150, 375 E. Chicago Ave., during a program sponsored by Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.

Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., a civil rights leader who began his career as a statewide youth coordinator in North Carolina for Dr. King, will deliver the candlelight vigil address on the national MLK holiday Jan. 21, 7 p.m., at Alice Millar Chapel, located at 1870 Sheridan Road in Evanston. Poet and spoken word artist Timothy Mays opens the candlelight vigil program. Chavis and Mays were selected by host fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha, which also was Dr. King’s fraternity. 

Economic empowerment activist Maggie Anderson

Anderson is CEO and founder of the Empowerment Experiment Foundation, a non-profit that studies and facilitates economic development in under-served African-American communities through support of conscious consumerism, financial literacy, targeted entrepreneurship and business diversity and inclusion.

Her 2012 book, “Our Black Year,” chronicled the Oak Park, Ill., family’s efforts to buy all of their goods and services for an entire year exclusively from black-owned businesses on Chicago’s West side.

Anderson discovered that more than 90 percent of the neighborhood’s businesses were not owned by local people, but rather by people who are not black and do not live in the community, resulting in the wealth exiting the community and failing to benefit the neighborhood.

The experiment led to a landmark study by Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, which proved that an incremental increase in support of black-owned businesses could lead to job creation and economic development in the black community and improve the American economy as a whole. 

The Kellogg study estimated that close to 1 million new American jobs could be created if African-American consumers with a household income of $75,000 or more were to increase their spending in the community from the current 3 to 10 percent of their disposable income.

Anderson is a first-generation American daughter of Cuban immigrants. She has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Emory University and a Juris Doctor and MBA from the University of Chicago, where President Barack Obama was her law professor and mentor. Prior to funding the Empowerment Experiment Foundation, she was an aide to civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis, the speechwriter for the mayor of Atlanta and a strategy executive at McDonald’s corporation.

The 2019 MLK Commemoration events schedule is as follows:

Evanston Events:

Eva Jefferson Day
Jan. 21, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive

Evanston students will come to Northwestern to enjoy a full day of arts, crafts and discussion about the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Alpha Phi Alpha Candlelight Vigil
Jan. 21, 7 to 9 p.m.
Alice Millar Chapel, 1870 Sheridan Rd.

The Alpha Mu Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity hosts Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., entrepreneur, global business leader, educator, civil rights leader, NAACP Life Member, syndicated columnist, author and current president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association. The program includes a keynote address from Chavis and musical performances from Northwestern student groups. A reception follows. Sign language interpretation will be provided. This event is free and open to the public.

Martin Luther King Jr. Service and Learning Day 2019 

Freedom Leaves: an original play by senior Chloe Noelle Fourte
Jan. 20, 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Norris University Center, McCormick Auditorium
1999 Campus Drive

The play depicts the story of Dom, a young African-American, who is trapped in the afterworld. Not wanting to leave, but unable to stay, Dom must navigate the space between individual agency and supernatural force to realize who or what is truly in control.

 Day of Service
Jan. 21, 12:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Norris University Center, Ground Floor
Register online

Northwestern students and staff are invited to participate in a large-scale service project to transform learning spaces at three local community sites. Bus transportation and lunch provided. Registration is required.

Chicago inJustice
Jan. 25, 5 to 6 p.m.  
Norris University Center, McCormick Auditorium  

Local community organizers will present an overview of problems in the criminal justice system and suggest ways of getting involved in reform efforts. A reception and action opportunities conclude the program.

Arts Fest
Jan. 26, 6 to 9 p.m.
Harris Hall, Room 107
1881 Sheridan Road

6 p.m. “Lift Ev'ry Voice,” a fast-moving slam event providing a “megaphone” for Evanston's Black student voices

7 p.m. Reception, catered by Urban Tables

8 p.m. “We Shall Overcome,” a series of 10-minute plays on racial justice

Sponsored by Vertigo Productions and Leadership Development and Community Engagement

Campus Observance: Maggie Anderson
Jan. 28, 6 to 7 p.m.
Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Drive

Northwestern musical groups also will perform. The event is open to the public and sign language interpretation will be provided. See the Facebook event for additional information.

Harambee: A Black History Month kick-off event
Jan. 25, 6 to 8:30 p.m.
Norris University Center, Louis Room

Swahili for “pull together,” "Harambee" is used as a rallying cry in Kenya for coming together and gathering resources. Harambee kicks off Black History Month with various performances and food for all to enjoy. Sponsored by: For Members Only (FMO) and Multicultural Student Affairs.

Chicago Events:

From Crisis to Action: Lawyers and Doctors as Advocates
Jan. 22, noon to 1:15 p.m.
Arthur Rubloff Building, Room 150
375 E. Chicago Ave.

This panel will feature legal and medical professionals whose work places them on the front line of current events as they explore their professional obligations and how they they intersect with advocacy work. Panelists include Dr. Karen Sheehan, Sheila Bedi and Kendrick Washington. Lunch will be served.

Chicago’s Midnight Years: Chicago Policing, Torture and the Lasting Effects of Incarceration
Jan. 23, noon to 1:15 p.m.
Arthur Rubloff Building, Room 150
375 E. Chicago Ave.

This panel discussion will focus on Chicago policing during the John Burge years, the impact on torture on victims and the long-term mental health impact of incarceration. Panelists include investigative journalist John Conroy, author Ronald Kitchen, and Dr. Linda Teplin. Lunch will be served.

Documentary Screening and Reception
“Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story”
Jan. 24, 4:30 p.m. reception
5 p.m. documentary screening
Levy Mayer Hall, Lowden Hall
357 E. Chicago Ave. 

Join the Chicago campus for a reception and viewing of excerpts of the critically-acclaimed documentary series “Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story.”

Chicago Campus Oratorical Competition
Jan. 25, noon to 1:15 p.m.
Arthur Rubloff Building, Room 150
375 E. Chicago Ave.                  

The public is invited to the final round of the Chicago Campus Oratorical Competition. The competition is open to all students currently enrolled in a program on the Chicago Campus of Northwestern University, including the Feinberg School of Medicine, The Graduate School, the Kellogg School of Management, the Pritzker School of Law, the School of Professional Studies and Allied Health Programs. Finalists will present their essays and audience members will vote for their favorite oratorical performance. For more information on the competition, please email
Lunch will be served.

2019 MLK Service Activities
Jan. 26 and 28
Pritzker School of Law, Atrium
375 E. Chicago Ave.
Register online

Northwestern students and staff are invited to participate in a variety of community service projects in Chicago. Bus transportation is provided. Registration is required. For more information contact

Keynote Address: Maggie Anderson
Jan. 28, noon to 1 p.m.
Arthur Rubloff Building, Room 150
375 E. Chicago Ave.

The event, hosted by Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, includes lunch and sign language interpretation. 

Any questions on the Chicago Campus Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration can be directed at

More information is available on Northwestern’s MLK Commemoration website.

On Jan. 10, Northwestern announced the recipients of the 2019 Daniel I. Linzer Awards for Faculty Excellence in Diversity and Equity. This year’s honorees include Marcelo Worsley, learning sciences in the School of Education and Social Policy and computer sciences in McCormick School of Engineering; and Galen Bodenhausen, psychology, of Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

Read more about the award and honorees here.