More than 100 people gathered inside Haven Hall for the 13th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Circle of Unity hosted by the Michigan Community Scholars Program. The event, held in conjunction with the University of Michigan’s Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Symposium, brought people together to honor heritage and diversity through different art forms.

Gabe Colman, coordinator for diversity initiatives for the Michigan Community Scholars Program, reflected on the significance of the event, commenting on how it offers individuals an opportunity to come together as one in an often polarizing time.

“It’s called a ‘Circle of Unity’ because we all hold hands and get in a circle and that’s not something we do every day,” Colman said. “That’s what makes it special, especially in the world we live in now — it’s super divisive and polarizing even on campus. It’s cool to see people from all different walks of life get together in the same room and be able to be one.”

The event celebrated King’s commitment to social justice, peace and unity. Participants used song, dance and spoken-word poetry to honor King’s legacy. Local musicians Joe Reilly and Julie Beutel were featured artists at the event, along with the Smile Bringer Singers, a club on campus dedicated to “spreading happiness through harmonies.”

After taking part in song and dance, the audience had the opportunity to publicly express their dreams for the future of society.

Taubman freshman Demetrius Ford discussed how events like the Circle of Unity allow individuals to come together to celebrate King on this memorial holiday.

“MLK was such a pivotal figure in our history and in the civil rights movement,” Ford said. “His work and his contributions expand into today. I wanted to be here to show my appreciation for him and his work, and I also wanted to see everybody here together to celebrate him.”

Engineering freshman Sage Paris commented on how Martin Luther King Jr. Day serves as an opportunity to reflect on injustice in this nation at large.

“It’s still important to come to events like this so we can acknowledge the significance of the day that is Martin Luther King Day, and reflect, particularly on this day, on the rich history that has to do with all of the injustices in this country and think about the modern relevance of all of the issues that we are faced with,” Paris said.

The event concluded with a performance of gospel folk song “We Shall Overcome,” during which audience members came together in harmony as a testament to their dedication to positive social change.

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