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USF preparing MLK festivities

The USF Office of Multicultural Activities kicks off its 20th annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration on Monday, a weeklong series of events honoring the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr.

Organizers hope it further fosters King’s message of diversity and acceptance among USF students.

“It’s about making all students who set foot on this campus feel empowered, like they have a chance to do something during their time here,” said Samuel Wright, the associate dean of Student Affairs, a professor of Africana studies and vice president of the Hillsborough County chapter of the NAACP. “It’s about making them take ownership of what’s going on at USF, making them able to say, ‘This is my home, this is my life, this is my world.'”

Because of the large percentage of minority students on campus, events fostering diversity mesh well with USF, Wright said. The 2006 Princeton Review of the nation’s 361 best colleges ranked USF No. 18 in diversity. Nearly one-quarter of USF students are minorities, and nearly half of those minorities are black.

“Martin Luther King’s bust and the MLK Plaza make a statement about what USF stands for and what we teach students,” Wright said. “We have a campus commitment to embracing diversity to the utmost, and that’s what Martin Luther King was all about.”

Several USF groups co-sponsored the events, which include an MLK Parade put on by the City of Tampa, a kick-off ceremony, a book signing by Ray Arsenault author of Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice, a luncheon, a large-scale community service initiative and University Lecture Series speaker the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

The week’s events begin on Martin Luther King Jr. Day with the parade running through Riverfront and University of Tampa areas from noon to 2 p.m. They conclude on Saturday at 2 p.m with Volunteer USF’s Stampede of Service ’07, a community service project that is expected to send more than 2,000 students into the Tampa community. Students looking for more information on the week’s events can consult Multicultural Activities’ Web site

Events such as these and a climate at USF that encourages diversity make the student experience at USF different than at other universities, said Viviana Kabbabe, a graduate assistant in Multicultural Activities.

“We have an embracing and accepting atmosphere here that some other universities don’t,” Kabbabe said. “Dr. King’s vision is really a dream of what we aspire to every day at USF.”

A week of celebration

MondayMLK ParadeNoon to 2 p.m., Riverfront near University of TampaMLK ethnic feast and memorial serviceFeast: 4 to 5:30 p.m.; Service: 6 to 7:30 p.m.; at Beulah Baptist Church

TuesdayMLK Kick-off11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at MLK PlazaMLK Candlelight Vigil7 to 9 p.m. at Campus View East and MLK Plaza

WednesdayRay Arsenault lecture and book-signing”Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice,” 2 to 4 p.m., TECO RoomMLK Dialogue4:15 to 5:30 p.m., TECO Room

ThursdayULS Lecture: The Rev. Jesse Jackson7 to 9 p.m., Sun Dome

FridayMLK Luncheon: “Having Our Say!”Noon to 2 p.m., Phyllis P. Marshall CenterBallroom; RSVP to 974-4373