Since 1986, America has celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through observances that teach, excite, and inspire the next generation of leaders.

From 1999-2005, Southeast Missouri State University held a memorial breakfast to honor Dr. King. In 2006, King's eldest son, Martin Luther King III, was invited to be the keynote speaker for the first campus celebration dinner. The 2006 dinner initiated a new tradition that continues to garner growing involvement by students, faculty, staff, alumnae, and community members from the southeast Missouri region and beyond.   

Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration

Each year, Southeast honors Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a celebratory dinner featuring a guest speaker to share their story and diversity and acceptance.

About the Speaker 

We are proud to announce that the 2021 guest speaker is Nikki Giovanni, a world-renowned poet, writer, commentator, activist, and educator. Over the past 30 years, the outspoken nature of her writing and speaking has brought the eyes of the world upon her. One of the most widely read American poets, she prides herself on being "a Black American, a daughter, a mother, a professor of English." The Academy of American Poets voted Giovanni #1 poet for the spring of 2007. 

Giovanni remains as determined and committed as ever to the fight for civil rights and equality. Always insisting on presenting the truth as she sees it, she has maintained a prominent place as a strong voice of the black community. Her focus is on the individual—specifically, the power one has to make a difference in oneself and in the lives of others. 

Giovanni has written more than two dozen books, including volumes of poetry, illustrated children’s books, and three collections of essays. Her book Racism 101 includes bold, controversial essays about the situation of Americans on all sides of various race issues. She has received 21 honorary doctorates and a host of other awards, including Woman of the Year titles from three different magazines and the Governors’ Awards in the Arts from both Tennessee and Virginia. Rosa, her biography of legendary civil rights activist Rosa Parks, won Caldecott Honors and the Coretta Scott King Medal for best illustrated book. Other books include the collection of adult poetry Acolytes and the novel On My Journey Now: Looking at African American History Through the Spirituals. Three of her volumes of poetry—Love Poems, Blues: For All the Changes, and Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea—were winners of the NAACP Image Award in 1998, 2000, and 2003. Her newly released collection, Bicycles: Love Poems, has been called one of her “most powerful offerings to date” by Essence magazine. 

Since 1987, Nikki Giovanni has taught writing and literature at Virginia Tech, where she is a distinguished professor. As a devoted and passionate writer, teacher, and speaker, she inspires not only her students but also readers and audiences nationwide. Her album Truth Is on Its Way, in which she reads her poetry against a background of gospel music, was a top 100 album and was named Best Spoken Word Album by the National Association of Radio and Television Announcers. The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection, a spoken-word CD, was a finalist for the 2003 Grammy Award in the category of spoken word. 

2021 MLK Student Hosts 

Anthony Shepard is a St. Louis native and a BFA Musical Theatre major here at Southeast. You can usually find him on/or around a stage. Anthony is President of Alpha Psi Omega, a founding member of the HCAM Equity and Diversity Committee, and a member of Black Mask.  

Raven Cole is a Senior at Southeast Missouri University (SEMO) majoring in Criminal Justice and double minoring in Spanish & Political Science. Since her time here at SEMO Raven has become President of the Lambda Eta chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho, President of the NPHC, a McNair Scholar, a member of Black Student Union, a 2020 Federal Justice Fellow and an executive member of the Student Activities Council. She enjoys volunteering with the Lupus Foundation. Volunteering with the Lupus foundation is dear to Raven’s heart because her mother is a Lupus Warrior. Raven is an aspiring Defense Attorney. She will graduate this May and will be attending Law School. 

Performing Artist 

Richmond, Virginia based multi-talented Dr. Jonathan C. Bibbs is this year's 2021 MLK showcase performer.  Bibbs is a consummate singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, educator, family man, and community leader. Reared by educated, religiously devout parents who loved him enough to adopt him and pray for his talent right from the start, Bibbs experienced early grace. He was led to the esteemed door of music teacher Susan Trotter at Virginia Commonwealth University who took a curiously patient three-year old Bibbs under her tutelage, training the prodigy under the Suzuki method before he’d fully even learned how to write his own name. Bibbs was a disciplined pupil who practiced his Gladwell hours from VCU and Sixth Baptist Church right to the major stages of Richmond, sharing the spotlight with everyone from the Richmond Philharmonic to gospel superstars like The Winans before he’d even entered high school. He attended the Historically Black institution, Hampton University, on a trombone scholarship. There the Hampton Man was further refined into the focused and dignified man of Southern gentility, measured strength, and quiet masculinity that displayed itself not through bravado and untilled hope, but through its talent, intellect, and works. Bibbs first album, True Story in 2001, was not even for himself, but for the engineering studies of a producer friend. He released five well-received projects over the last fourteen years, including Red in 2003, the critically acclaimed breakthrough album that is the internationally beloved Unbreakable in 2005, the adventurous and deeply personal heartbreak of the iTunes and Amazon charting Ode to Old Flames in 2012 (peak: #11 & #14 R&B, respectively), the traditionalism of American Songbook standards through the minimalist Jazz Variations Live from New York in 2013. He was the SoulTracks Male Vocalist of the Year nominee in 2012.  Bibbs has done everything from S.O.B.s in NYC to the Howard Theater in DC. Charts? Bibbs' 2012 Ode to Old Flames peaked at #11 on iTunes R&B charts, and #14 on Amazon's Rhythm and Blues rankings for more than a month. Bibb's abilities make him a quadruple threat: writer, producer, composer, and multi-instrumental musician who has innovative songs bridging country and soul like his love letter to and old love, Nobody Loves You More or a long-proven ability to marry jazz and soul as with his new collaboration with Dwele and LaDarrel "Saxappeal" Johnson on Love In Waiting which Bibbs released in 2019. Bibbs is as accomplished an artist, as he is enviable a talent. 

Bibbs is a well-respected educator and senior administrator. Just a few years after college, Bibbs was committed to take over for his mother and Richmond Prep founding principal, Dr. Mary Gordon West. In the years since, the determined change agent and his team has doubled both the enrollment and the physical space of the 37-year-old, Christian-based elementary academy, located on Virginia’s prestigious Monument Avenue. With a curriculum rich in ethnic pride, arts and culture, Christian principles, and academic rigor, Bibbs and his team are looking to step into that gap to substantively contribute to the restoration of the Black family, Black Arts, and the Black community in Richmond, VA as a whole. In doing so, Dr. Bibbs is situated in a long tradition of the artist as advocate, educator, and voice for the marginalized in the storied legacies of such human rights leaders as Harry Belafonte, Fela Kuti, Stevie Wonder, and Nina Simone.   

Performing Musicians 

Dr. Joseph L. Jefferson is the Asst. Professor of Trombone/Euphonium and Director of Jazz Studies at Southeast Missouri State University. As a soloist, chamber musician, educator, and adjudicator, Joseph maintains an active schedule in Classical, Jazz, and commercial musical settings. Dr. Jefferson has been a guest artist and presenter at the International Trombone Festival, International Horn Symposium, University of Nevada, Reno, Texas A & M - Kingsville Trombone Day, University of Evansville Brass & Percussion Day, Mt. Hood Community College, Mineral Area College, and Three Rivers College. As a performer, Dr. Jefferson has shared the stage with a variety of groups and artists such as The Colour of Music Orchestra, The Irish Tenors, The Cab Calloway Orchestra, Zoltan Kiss (Mnozil Brass), Sean Jones, Randy Brecker, and international R&B artists Dwele and Raheem Devaughn among others. Internationally, Dr. Jefferson has had performing and teaching residencies in Bermuda and Asia at the College of Music, Mahidol University in Thailand. 

MLK Celebration Past Speakers

Since 2006, celebrated guest speakers have come to Southeast Missouri State University to honor the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, the first being King's eldest son, Martin Luther King III. Check out some of our other previous speakers.

Each year, the Martin Luther King, Jr (MLK) Celebration Planning Committee plans, organizes, and executes the annual dinner as well as other campus and community-wide activities on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.   

MLK Planning Committee members include faculty and staff from various colleges and departments across campus. The committee also includes Graduate Assistants from the Office of Institutional Equity & Diversity and the LGBTQ+ Resource Center, students involved in the TRIO/Student Support Services Program, the MLK Scholars, and a representative from the Student Government Association (SGA).   

The MLK Co-Chairs are appointed by the Provost and serve two years appointments.  

MLK Planning Committee Members Title
Dr. Shonta Smith, co-chair Director, Associate Professor, College of Education, Health and Human Studies
Mrs. Rhonda Weller-Stilson, co-chair
Dean, Holland College of Arts and Media
Dr. Tamara Buck  Professor and Chair, Mass Media
Isaiah Collins  MLK Scholar 
Dr. Sandra Cox  Assistant Professor, English 
Tatianna Hanna  Graduate Assistant, Office of Institutional Equity & Diversity
Michelle Irby  Director, Campus Life & Event Services 
William (Trey) James  MLK Scholar 
Dr. Joseph Jefferson  Assistant Professor, of Trombone/Euphonium and Director of Jazz Studies
Carson Lopez  Graduate Assistant, LGBTQ+ Resource Center 
Brookelyn Meyer  MLK Scholar 
Zumrawi Osman  Africa Association Member 
Shadan Roumany  Student Government, Diversity, and Inclusion Chair 
Dana Saverino  Creative Strategy Project Manager, University Marketing 
Brian Triggs  MLK Scholar 
Tammy Underwood  Executive Assistant, VP, Equity, Access, & Behavioral Health/Dean of Students
Tonya Wells  Director, University Marketing 
Dr. Victor Wilburn  Chair, Child, and Family Studies 
Valdis Zalite  Director, TRIO Programs 


Special Projects Title
Dr. Taylor Franke  Events Supervisor, Show Me Center 
Mr. Ken Gullett  Lieutenant, DPS 
Ms. Chistie McIntosh  Catering Director, Chartwells  
Mr. Kevin Yarbrough  Senior Campus Executive Chef, Chartwells  


Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration

Get a seat to attend this celebratory dinner!

Academic Hall 010 - 011
Mailing Address
One University Plaza, MS 3375
Cape Girardeau, MO 63701