JONESBORO — Together We can be the Dream is the theme of a week of activities planned in conjunction with the Northeast Arkansas Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, according to Dr. Lonnie Williams, vice chancellor of the Division of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement at Arkansas State University.

Events are planned from Jan. 15-19. The first event, an annual youth program, will be held at 4 p.m. Jan. 15 in the Academies at Jonesboro High School auditorium. This program will feature local youth performing liturgical dance, poetry, singing and other activities.

For the first year since the onset of the pandemic, the parade will take place in person beginning at 10:30 a.m. Jan. 16. Lineup will start at 9:30 a.m. The route will begin at the Lt. Col. Frederick Turner Military Science Building on the A-State campus, travel along the Marion Berry Parkway and Johnson Ave., and conclude at the Fowler Center.

Ray Prunty has been selected as this year’s grand marshal recognizing his service to the committee these past 21 years. The Forrest City High School marching band will be featured at the event.

A celebration will follow at noon at the Fowler Center. Dr. Don Arnette of DeSoto, Texas, will be the featured speaker with his presentation, “Working Together is How the Dream Becomes Reality.” Arnette received a Ph.D. from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center where he was the first African American male to receive a Ph.D. from the department of cellular molecular biology.

Arnette is a motivational speaker and mentors local youth and professional athletes in the Dallas area, relating to audiences by being transparent about his journey to success. Arnette is the author of the book “I am Supposed to be Here” and will have a book signing after the program.

On Jan. 17, Alexander Heffner, host of the PBS program “The Open Mind” and co-author of the bestselling book “A Documentary History of the United States,” will host a lecture in the Reng Student Union auditorium. The lecture, “Civil Discourse in an Age of Incivility,” will begin at 6 p.m.

This event is sponsored by the School of Media and Journalism, the student chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, Department of Political Science, Department of Communication and the Division of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement.

Activities will conclude at 6 p.m. on Jan. 19 in the Student Union auditorium where Dr. Charles “Chuck” Barber will be the featured speaker with “Reimagining how we Harmonize Diversity and Meritocracy.”

Barber was recently appointed chief diversity and inclusion officer with the National Science Foundation. Previously, he served as the director of the Department of the Navy’s diversity, equity and inclusion program. He also worked in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for manpower and reserve affairs.

Barber, originally from Bald Knob, has more than two decades of experience in human resources, diversity and inclusion, business transformation and cultural intelligence. This event will be presented by the Office of Research and Technology Transfer in conjunction with the Division of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement.

“We, the NEA Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Planning Committee and A-State sponsors, are excited about this outstanding slate of major speakers to celebrate this year’s Dr. King celebration. We are very fortunate to have the caliber of speakers for three major programs addressing key issues surrounding diversity and inclusion and the dream of Dr. King,” Williams said.

For more information on planned activities, contact Kenisha Ross, chairperson of the NEA Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Planning Committee at MLKjrday_pr2001@yahoo.com. Williams is the A-State liaison on the committee and can be reached at lonniew@AState.edu.

All events are free and open to the public. The program will be broadcast live by KLEK radio and Facebook live.