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News Release

Jan. 8, 2021

Dr. Eric Thomas providing keynote as Northwest honors legacy of MLK with annual Celebration Week activities

Northwest Missouri State University will commemorate the work of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. with its annual Celebration Week, beginning with a “Day of Learning” to explore topics of diversity and inclusion and continuing with movie screenings and service activities.   

Northwest’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion will host the MLK Day of Learning on Monday, Jan. 18, which is observed nationally this year as Martin Luther King Day. The University community is invited to participate in a series of concurrent sessions throughout the day.

Additionally, the Day of Learning will feature a keynote address by Dr. Eric Thomas, a speaker, author, educator and minister. Drawing from his own personal experiences as they relate to homelessness, the absence of his biological father, scholastic struggles, and various other obstacles, Thomas offers an inspiring message that relates to a range of people.

“This is a great way to continue our progression toward creating an inclusive campus environment,” Dr. Justin Mallett, Northwest’s associate provost for diversity and inclusion, said. “It is important to celebrate the life and legacy of a man who brought hope and healing to all of us. Dr. King lived a life, fighting for freedom and justice and risked his life standing up for his beliefs. It is because of these things, we celebrate MLK Week at Northwest.”

A complete schedule and additional details for Northwest’s MLK Celebration Week are provided below.

Although Martin Luther King Jr. was born Jan. 15, 1929, his birthday has been observed as a national holiday, Martin Luther King Day, on the third Monday of each January since 1986.

In observance of the holiday, Northwest will not have classes Monday, Jan. 18, and all University offices are closed.

King’s effort to lead the American civil rights movement during the 1950s and ‘60s included the 1963 March on Washington. There, he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, which dramatically raised public consciousness about civil rights and established King as a world figure. He was assassinated April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee.

Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Week events at Northwest are sponsored by Northwest’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. For more information, contact Mallett at or 660.562.1317.


Monday, Jan. 18

MLK Day of Learning

8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. via Zoom. Participants will receive a calendar invite with the Zoom link.

The Northwest community is invited to participate in concurrent sessions focused on topics related to diversity and inclusion to further develop cultural competence and understanding. Participants may choose to attend one session each hour with presenters discussing topics including implicit bias, racial trauma, and a comparison of Malcom X and MLK.

Northwest employees may register through the Center for Teaching and Learning at Other individuals interested in participating should contact the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at 660.562.1226 or

8:30 a.m. sessions

Microaggressions (presented by N’ninah Freelon)

Participants will be able to define microaggressions, identify the various types of microaggressions and learn various ways of addressing microaggressions personally and in the workplace.

Racial Trauma: What is it and how it may present in our students (presented by Dana Mallett)

A discussion about the definition of racial trauma, how trauma can be present in students and how to stay informed and supportive.

Discussion on Advising Black Males (presented by Dr. Allison Hoffmann and Dr. Justin Mallett)

This session will be a facilitated dialogue related to a webinar about advising black males. The session will focus on racial identity theory, racial battle fatigue and other components affecting the advisement of black males on predominantly white campuses.

10 a.m. sessions

Implicit Bias (presented by Dr. Justin Mallett)

This presentation will define implicit bias, identify different types of implicit bias and provide a road map for addressing it. This session will allow participants to understand the role of implicit bias has in their everyday life.

Colorism (presented by Dr. Giselle Greenidge)

Colorism – where light-skinned people are privileged over dark-skinned people when it comes to education, income, housing and marriage – is a problem in the United States but also in other parts of the world such as in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. This session will focus on the history of colorism, how it has manifested in different parts of the Black diaspora and affected the racial identity of people in the Black community, and what can be done to reduce its effect. 

Is White Supremacy a Western Civilization notion? (presented by Dr. Dawn Gilley)

This session will discuss the history of the term “western civilization” and how that history has its roots deep in American white supremacy.

11:30 a.m. sessions

Power, Privilege and Oppression (presented by Dr. Justin Mallett)

Mallett will define and openly discuss race, oppression, privilege and power, and describe what these concepts look like at Northwest. This session will discuss various ways of working together to understand power, privilege and oppression with the goal of developing an inclusive campus environment at Northwest.

Deconstructing the Mythology of Dr. King and Malcolm X (presented by Dana Ternus)

Americans tend to mythologize great figures of history. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X are often portrayed as polar opposites, but were they? Or was it more complicated than that? Let’s deconstruct the mythology of these men and their relationship to the Civil Rights movement. 

MLK Day Keynote address: Dr. Eric Thomas

1 p.m., online. View Thomas’s address live on the Office of Diversity and Inclusion Facebook page at

While the typical undergraduate student takes between four to six years to complete their studies, Thomas took 12. For most, that would have signaled the end of any future academic aspirations. For him, it was a springboard from which his academic success would be launched. In 2005, he received a master’s degree from Michigan State University, and in 2015 he successfully completed his Ph.D. in education administration from Michigan State.

Thomas’s commitment to community activism has been long standing. It began with his award-nominated GED program that led to his non-profit, Break The Cycle, I Dare you, and a plethora of ministerial and educational endeavors. The culmination of those efforts resulted in the development of the Advantage program at Michigan State to help high-risk college students improve their study habits and increase retention rates. Thomas also created International Urban Education Consultants, a non-profit organization committed to finding solutions to close the achievement gap in urban schools through goal framing and by helping students reform their perception of learning.

Thomas, who also goes by the name ET, has established a significant social media presence and has toured internationally as “ET, The Hip Hop Preacher.” As chief executive officer of his consulting firm, ETA LLC, Thomas has led his team through the doors of dozens of reputable organizations and Fortune 500 companies, including General Electric, Quicken Loans, AT&T, Nike, Under Armour, New Balance and UPS. He also has consulted for major universities and professional sports teams in the MLB, NBA, NFL and MLS.

Movie Night and Discussion: “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”

6 p.m., Ron Houston Center for the Performing Arts. Attendance will be limited due to COVID-19 mitigation measures.

After leaving the south as a young man and finding employment at an elite hotel in Washington, D.C., Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) gets the opportunity of a lifetime when he is hired as a butler at the White House. Over the course of three decades, he has a front-row seat to history and the inner workings of the Oval Office. However, his commitment to his “First Family” leads to tension at home, alienating his wife (Oprah Winfrey) and causing conflict with his anti-establishment son.


Wednesday, Jan. 20

Movie Night and Discussion: “Selma”

6 to 9 p.m., Ron Houston Center for the Performing Arts. Attendance will be limited due to COVID-19 mitigation measures.

Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 legally desegregated the south, discrimination was still rampant in certain areas, making it difficult for Blacks to register to vote. In 1965, an Alabama city became the battleground in the fight for suffrage. Despite violent opposition, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) and his followers pressed forward on an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, and their efforts culminated in President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.


Thursday, Jan. 21

BSU Juneteenth Celebration

6 to 8 p.m., The Station East Room

Join the Black Student Union for a presentation about the history of Juneteenth followed by fellowship and light refreshments.


Dr. Mark Hornickel
Administration Building
Room 215