Mark Your Calendars

Date: Monday, Jan. 24, 2022
Time: 7 p.m.
Place: Virtual event


2022 Keynote Speaker: Ashley M. Jones

This is a headshot of Ashley M. Jones, the poet laureate of the State of Alabama.

The University of Missouri is pleased to announce the 2022 keynote speaker for the Annual MLK Day of Celebration, Ashley M. Jones.
Ashley M. Jones is the poet laureate of Alabama (2022-26). She holds a master of fine arts in poetry from Florida International University, and she is the author of Magic City Gospel (Hub City Press, 2017), dark / / thing (Pleiades Press, 2019) and REPARATIONS NOW! (Hub City Press, 2021).
Her poetry has earned her numerous awards, including the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Award, the silver medal in the Independent Publishers Book Awards, the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Prize for Poetry, a Literature Fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts, the Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize, and the Lucille Clifton Legacy Award.
She was a finalist for the Ruth Lily Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship in 2020. Her poems and essays appear in or are forthcoming at CNN, POETRY, The Oxford American, Origins Journal, The Quarry by Split This Rock, Obsidian, and many others.
Currently, she teaches creative writing at the Alabama School of Fine Arts in the Low Residency MFA at Converse University. Jones co-directs PEN Birmingham, and she is the founding director of the Magic City Poetry Festival. She recently served as a guest editor for Poetry Magazine.
Learn more about our keynote speaker by visiting:

2022 Theme

Spoken Word: Facing the Challenges of Tomorrow

“Though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This year’s theme, “Spoken Word: Facing the Challenges of Tomorrow,” was chosen to inspire audiences, provoke discussion, have conversation and actively listen to one another. What we do today, using our voice, will impact our future.   

During his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. noted, “Though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.” With this year’s events, through poetry, spoken word performances and other expressive art forms, we encourage the Mizzou community to address challenges that we continue to face today.   

King used his words to inspire a generation and followed his words with action. His powerful message of nonviolence to encourage change is applicable today and beyond. His words continue to have an impact nearly 60 years later.   

The 2022 MLK Celebration Committee coordinated the events of this week to impart a sense of hope and possibility as we continue to strive toward a more inclusive campus, country and global community. 

2022 Program

  1. Opening Remarks
  2. Musical Performance
  3. Artist Showcase
  4. Community Award presentation
  5. Keynote by Ashley M. Jones
  6. Closing Remarks

MLK Community Award Details

Established in 2007, the University of Missouri Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award recognizes and affirms those in the Columbia community who have made significant tangible contributions in the areas of race relations, social justice and human rights.

Each year, the planning committee selects a Boone County resident or group to receive this award in recognition of extraordinary leadership and inspiration in furthering the goal of achieving greater cultural and ethnic diversity in the community. The award will be presented during the annual campus celebration commemorating Dr. King each January.


Those who have exhibited extraordinary leadership in one or more of the following areas are eligible for this award:

  • Both individuals and advocacy groups may be nominated, but nominees must be residents of Columbia or Boone County.
  • Nominees must not include MU faculty and staff.
  • Nominees should be an individual who or organization that has made significant contributions in building a sense of unity among Columbia citizens.
  • Nominees must work in the area of promotion and developing a mutual respect, understanding and appreciation for the cultural and ethnic diversity within our local and extended community (outside the university academic community).
  • Nominees should have demonstrated ability in building local communities through various activities and programs that help to revitalize areas and make Columbia a more wholesome and desirable place for living, learning and loving.
  • Nominees should have been personally or corporately involved in making tangible, visible, and meaningful contributions to the advancement of race relations, social justice, and/or human rights causes.
  • In recognizing the personal commitment and example that Dr. King stressed and discussed in his speeches for academic achievement, nominees should have demonstrated a personal commitment to scholarship and/or attainment of educational goals despite significant barriers or obstacles (learning disabilities, poverty, etc.). Dr. King was known to challenge his followers to pursue excellence through a commitment to life-long learning. This dream still exists and nominees should demonstrate this desire.
  • Nominees should demonstrate specific accomplishments in reducing barriers that have hindered under served groups from attaining academic excellence. Specific activities or accomplishments could include, but are not limited to, mentoring, tutoring, innovative pre-school programs, highly effective pre-college programs, provision of scholarships, etc. Special consideration will be given to the nominees who provide children access to the tools of technology and incorporate effective parental involvement.

The heart of the award is to recognize individuals who give their time and service freely to those in need without question, often without recognition. This award seeks to honor those who promote Dr. King’s legacy and attempt to make a difference in the lives of others through selfless service. Winners should stand as role models for others to emulate.

Past MLK Award Winners

  • Eliot Battle
  • Almeta Crayton
  • Reverend Raymond Hayes
  • Pamela Ingram
  • Michael Middleton
  • Minority Men’s Network
  • West Boulevard Elementary School
  • Nora Stewart Memorial Nursery School
  • Camren D. Cross
  • Columbia African American Association
  • BOLD (Black + Brown Opportunity Leadership Development) Academy
  • City of Refuge
  • Worley Street Roundtable

MLK Planning Committee

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. commemorative committee is comprised of University of Missouri faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate students, and Columbia community representatives. We seek to engage our students, campus and greater community in interaction that is positive, educational and entertaining. For further inquiries, please email us at