Bethel MLK Day program in-person and virtual

By Melanie Zuercher
Special to the Kansan
Chris Singleton, a motivational speaker and former pro athlete, will be the keynote speaker for Bethel College's Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration.

Each year, Bethel College remembers the day in 1960 when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to a packed Memorial Hall on “The Future of Integration.”

This year’s celebration takes place Jan. 18, with in-person and virtual options in line with public health guidelines surrounding COVID-19.

The public is invited to come to Krehbiel Auditorium in Luyken Fine Arts (face coverings required and physical distancing enforced) starting at 6:30 p.m. to hear spoken word artist M’Vyonne Payne, followed at 7 p.m. by keynote presenter Chris Singleton, a motivational speaker and former pro athlete.

The event will also be livestreamed at

The Bethel College Diversity Council, a student organization, along with the Bethel College Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the Office of Student Life, with support from the Bethel College Women’s Association, are sponsoring the celebration.

Payne describes herself as “a poet, author, activist and slammaster, the founder and host of FTW Slam, and an unapologetically magical black girl” from Kansas City, Mo.

FTW Slam is a monthly poetry slam open mic in downtown Kansas City.

Singleton will present a talk titled “Love Your Neighbor.”

He played professional baseball in the Chicago Cubs organization. He now travels the country and has spoken to more than 60,000 students in schools and on campuses.

Singleton has also spread his message through various media outlets, including ESPN’s E:60, Sports Illustrated, CNN and USA Today.

Singleton is particularly motivated in his work by his mother, Sharonda Coleman Singleton, one of nine people murdered June 17, 2015, at Mother Emanuel AME church in downtown Charleston, S.C., by a young white man.

“Chris Singleton has turned tragedy into purpose,” said Linda Moyo, Bethel student from Hesston and a leader of Bethel’s Diversity Council. “He has forgiven the white man who wanted to start a race-related war in the U.S. by murdering [Singleton’s] mother, along with eight other victims, in 2015.

“Chris has dedicated his life to inspiring the nation by spreading the messages ‘Love is stronger than hate’ and ‘Love your neighbor.’ ”

Bethel’s celebration of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday is free and open to everyone.