The university’s 24th annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium is drawing a nationally known journalist, award-winning filmmakers and other prominent communicators as it opens this week and continues through January.
Highlights include a keynote address by PBS anchor Gwen Ifill, an opening lecture by Carmen Van Kerckhove who offers new insights on race and racism, environmental justice advocate Vernice Miller-Travis, author Sapphire whose best-selling novel “Push” was adapted for the current hit film “Precious,” and South African musical group Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
The symposium theme chosen by the 40-member MLK Symposium Planning Committee is “I am, was and always will be a catalyst for change.” The words were spoken by Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to the U.S. Congress, and to run for president in 1972. The theme was selected to encourage people to be agents for change, particularly students trying to create a legacy of positive change.
The range of speakers and programs is meant to draw both young and old to the MLK Symposium, one of the earliest established ongoing King celebratory events in the country.
The MLK Symposium opens Tuesday at locations around campus and Metro Detroit.
Some key Jan. 18 events include:
• The keynote King Memorial Lecture with Gwen Ifill, moderator and managing editor of PBS’ “Washington Week,” co-anchor for the “PBS NewsHour” and author of the best-selling book, “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama,” 10 a.m. Hill Auditorium. A native of New York City and a graduate of Simmons College in Boston, Ifill serves on the board of the Harvard University Institute of Politics, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Newseum and the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism.
• Annual Children & Youth Program: A Day Filled With Creativity, Dialogue and Entertainment for Students in Grades K-12, 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m., Modern Language Building. Prekindergarten, elementary, middle and high schools students throughout Washtenaw County and Southeastern Michigan are invited to participate to commemorate King’s dream and its significance today.
• Black History 101: Mobile Museum, 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Michigan Union Art Lounge, with Khalid el-Hakim. The theme of the collection will focus on the 3 M’s: Martin, Michael and Motown. The Mobile Museum, a grassroots project that showcases African-American memorabilia, includes the Bell Collection comprised of more than 1,500 artifacts ranging from slavery to hip-hop culture.
• Health Sciences Lecture: “Breast Cancer Awareness, Treatment And Transformative Health: A Catalyst For Change,” with Dr. Lisa Newman, surgical oncologist and director of the U-M Breast Care Center, 11:45 a.m., Dow Auditorium, Towsley Center. This presentation addresses current and future research, treatment and prevention of breast cancer. Newman regularly travels to Ghana to seek answers and a cure.
• Business & Finance MLK Convocation, Exploring Global Connections: Celebrating Differences and Similarities, 1-3 p.m., Rackham Auditorium, with Mark Johnson, creator of the Playing for Change project, which recorded and filmed a diverse group of international musicians in several different countries, playing music on street corners, in fields and in front of their homes.
• “Push, Literacy, Women, and African American Literature” with award-winning poet, author, and educator Sapphire, 2 p.m., Michigan Union Ballroom. “Precious,” the film adaptation of Sapphire’s bestselling novel “Push,” recently won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for the U.S. dramatic competition at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.
• Marjorie Lee Browne Colloquium with Rodrigo Banuelos, professor and head of the Department of Mathematics, Purdue University, “The Isoperimetric Problem: Queen Dido’s Gift to Mathematics,” 4 p.m., Room 1360, East Hall. Banuelos’ talk will include his views on the progress (or lack thereof) made in increasing the participation of women and minorities in mathematics in the 60 years since U-M awarded Browne a doctorate degree.
• Reframing the Color Line: “Race and Visual Culture” with Martha Jones, associate professor of history and Afroamerican & African studies; and Kristin Hass, American culture, 4 p.m., William L. Clements Library. This is an exploration of racism as portrayed and challenged in American public culture. The discussion is in conjunction with the current Clements Library exhibit of the same name.
Other MLK Symposium highlights include:
• The Opening Lecture with podcast producer and blogger Carmen Van Kerckhove, called one of the country’s most important new voices on issues surrounding race and racism today, 5 p.m. Jan. 12, Michigan League Vandenberg Room.
• Public reading of “The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease,” by author Jonathan Metzl, associate professor of psychiatry and Women’s Studies and director of the Culture, Health and Medicine Program, 2-4 p.m. Jan. 13, Room 2239, Lane Hall.
• Linguistics and American Culture Colloquium with Wesley Leonard, San Diego State University, Miami Tribe of Oklahoma Language Committee, “iilaataweeyankwi: Miami Language Reclamation as Decolonization,” 4 p.m. Jan. 15, 3222 Angell Hall. Miami, an Algonquian language that was deemed “extinct” in the 1960s when its last speakers died, has been reclaimed from written documentation and brought back into the lives of the Miami people.
• Voices of the Holocaust, 4 p.m. Jan. 17, Kerrytown Concert House, features Caroline Helton and Kathryn Goodson in a 65-minute program of solo vocal music with a pianist featuring the music of Kurt Weill, Robert Kahn, Erich Korngold, Darius Milhaud and Oskar Morawetz, Jewish composers whose lives were affected by the Holocaust.
• School of Natural Resources & Environment Dean’s Speaker Series with Vernice Miller-Travis, 5 p.m. Jan. 19, Michigan League Vandenberg Room. Miller-Travis is the principal of an environmental consulting group and a key convener of an effort to bring the voices of the environmental justice constituency into dialogue with the Obama/Biden administration. She was invited to the White House to witness President Obama’s signing of two memoranda of understanding on raising automobile fuel efficiency standards.
• Institute for Social Research MLK Day Presentation, 2-3:30 p.m. Jan. 20 at Rackham Amphitheatre with Robert Bobb, emergency financial manager, Detroit Public Schools (DPS). Bobb will present a lecture on his plans for the DPS and the obstacles he has to overcome.
• “STILL BLACK: a portrait of black transmen,” directed by Kortney Ryan Ziegler and produced by Awilda Rodriguez, 6 p.m. Jan. 20, School of Social Work, Educational Conference Center. This feature-length documentary explores the lives of six black transgender men — artists, students, husbands, fathers, lawyers and teachers — living in the United States.
• MLK Symposium Film Screening of “The Water Front” (53 minutes, 2007) with Curtis Smith, associate producer, 5 p.m. Jan. 21, U-M Museum of Art, Helmut Stern Auditorium. The story of Highland Park, Mich., in crisis over water raises questions about shared public resources, alternatives to water privatization and maintaining public water systems.
• Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, “Fondly Do We Hope … Fervently Do We Pray,” 8 p.m., Jan. 22-23, Power Center for the Performing Arts. The production explores the myriad meanings of Lincoln, rejecting accepted truth in favor of challenging (and celebrating) his lasting contributions. The work investigates a handful of key moments from Lincoln’s life, allowing song and memory to transport the audience to an emotional and intellectual space beyond the boundaries of space and time.
• Share The Dream And Find Out How Visionary Leaders From Three Different Communities Began As Spiritual Leaders And Are Remembered As Political Icons, a conversation with Charles Taylor, Maria Cotera and Lois Beardslee, 5:30-8:30 p.m. Jan. 27, School of Social Work Educational Conference Center. The public is invited to join this evening of conversation about the life and works of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Rigoberta Menchu and Contemporary Native Women Warriors.
• Ladysmith Black Mambazo, 4 p.m. Jan. 31, Hill Auditorium. Since Paul Simon’s Graceland album catapulted Ladysmith Black Mambazo to worldwide fame in 1986, the vocal group has remained true to the idea of opening doors to South African culture through their music, dance, and singing. The group borrows from a traditional music called isicathamiya, developed in the mines of South Africa, where black workers toiled far from their homes and their families.
For the most current MLK Symposium information go to www.mlksymposium.umich.edu.
Anna Ercoli Schnitzer, on her greatest passion: “Working to improve the physical and virtual accessibility to all of our community, regardless of individual physical or mental challenges.”