Arts / Faith and Humanities / Campus Community

Honoring the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

January 12, 2023

Poster featuring MLK Celebration information.

The celebration will center on the legacy of Dr. King's work and the importance of continuing that work today.

Every January, Seattle University celebrates the life and legacy of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It’s a time to reflect on the lessons he imparted, the dreams he shared and how we as a community can continue to respond to his call to act in great love. 

The theme of this year’s MLK Day Celebration, presented by the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA), is “Changing the Narrative, Continuing the Dream.” The event, January 17, 6:30–8:30 p.m. at the LeRoux Conference Center (Student Center 160), will feature keynote speakers Hiawatha D. and Veronica Very. 

This year marks 60 years since Dr. King described 1963 as the beginning of “the Negro Revolution.” As noted by OMA, “it is important that in this year we center on the legacy of Dr. King’s work and our responsibility to continue to advocate for change, live in a spirit of hope and create new narratives of what it looks like to step into our power and freedom.”

“I would encourage members of the campus community to attend because of the importance of honoring those in our community who are doing the work of social justice," says AshLee Day, assistant director of OMAI. "It's going to be a dynamic and engaging presentation and we are fortunate to have such impressive speakers as Hiawatha D. and Veronica Very."

Acclaimed artist Hiawatha D. is a Seattle native who uses his art (paintings, ceramics and wood carvings) to disrupt the narratives of trauma that typically depict Black lives. His bold use of color radically celebrates Black power, healing and hope in the world and his art is inspired by the Harlem Renaissance artists. His moving work, 10:22 AM, honors Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, the four young girls who were killed in the racially motivated attack at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., nearly 60 years ago. The powerful painting is part of the art collection at the Chapel of St. Ignatius. 

In 2017, Hiawatha began his “Iconic Black Women” series, which has culminated in 50 extraordinary paintings ranging from Sojourner Truth to Vice President Kamala Harris. These paintings are an homage to the courage and beauty of Black women. Hiawatha D. is married to Veronica Very with whom he creates healing exhibitions and shares ancestral healing work. Together, they mentor emerging artists and entrepreneurs and volunteer their time and talents in the community locally, nationally and internationally. 

Veronica Very is founder of Wonder of Women International and the WOW Gallery downtown. She is the visionary creator of the “Dear Sista, I See You,” a healing art exhibition that unapologetically centers Black women, Black love and the Black community in the heart of downtown Seattle’s economic corridor in Pacific Place Mall. Very inspires and encourages the healing of systematic and racial trauma in Black people by using an ancestrally guided framework of storytelling that builds community and spaces for reflection, renewal, restoration and rejuvenation. 

“Hiawatha D. and Veronica Very use their work particularly with Wonder of Women International, the WOW Gallery and Hiawatha's "Iconic Black Women" series of paintings to depict Black people and Black women in a positive light, highlighting Black joy and Black excellence is a different narrative than that of Black trauma, which are what usually dominate depictions of the community,” says Day. “This MLK Day it is important to highlight not just how communities of color have struggled for justice but also how they have overcome and thrived in spite of oppression.”

The event is free but an RSVP is requested. Learn more about this and other OMA programming