ALLENDALE, Mich. (WOOD) — Communities and organizations throughout West Michigan took time to honor civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday.

The nation started recognizing Martin Luther King Jr. Day officially on Jan. 20, 1986.

Today was the first time Grand Valley State University was closed for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

The university kicked off a week of speakers under the theme “Equity in Education.”

Monday’s keynote speaker was Cheryl Brown Henderson, the sister of Linda Brown, the child at the center of the Brown vs. Board of Education case.

“We have to be certain that we recognize that we are being underestimated, that roadblocks are being put up but even with the constitution, our rights were subverted even before the ink dried on the paper. And here we are again. But we know how to get around that. We know that our vote is our voice. And we recognize that we have to show up, stand up and speak up at every opportunity,” said Brown Henderson during the virtual address.

Brown Henderson is the founding president of the Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research.

“When we’re teaching history, if we’re teaching the truth of our history … it squelches the lie that there’s no one superior to anyone else. Without exception, we all got here the same way. We were all born,” said Brown Henderson.

In Holland, the public school system and the city teamed up for an event at the Holland Civic Center. There were a limited number of guests at the civic center and others joined in virtually. The speaker was Joe Jones, the former CEO of the Urban League of Grand Rapids. He challenged his audience to dream.

“Dreams happen when we allow our imagination to run wild. When we choose to think outside the box. When we throw off all of the constraints of the way things are and imagine the way things could be,” said Jones.

Jones said if there was ever a time to dream, it’s right now.

“You see my brothers and sisters, whatever your circumstances are now, whatever your fear, whatever the threat from those whom you see as your enemies, whatever the situation in your life, you gotta dare to dream,” said Jones.

You can watch Jones’ speech at

Other events and speakers scheduled for this week at Grand Valley State University are free and open to the public. More information can be found at