News for faculty and staff

Contact | Past Issues

Week of December 5, 2011

Renewed activism focus of 2012 Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium

The fresh contributions by activists throughout the world to ongoing equality, economic, political and civil rights struggles are a key focus of the 26th Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium opening in January.

The MLK Symposium keynote speaker is Michele Norris, National Public Radio reporter and author, speaking at 10 a.m. Jan. 16 at Hill Auditorium.

This annual series of lectures and other activities to honor the civil rights leader is known as one of the most prominent observances nationally of King’s life and legacy. This year’s symposium theme is Building on the Past to a New Generation of Activism.

“The MLK Symposium Planning Committee, comprised of faculty, staff and students, wanted to make sure that in paying attention to what past civil rights leaders have accomplished, that they also give credit to contemporary activists and highlight how civil rights leaders such as Dr. King have paved a way or have significantly influenced contemporary activism,” says Theda Gibbs, who coordinates the MLK Symposium along with Lumas Helaire, program manager in the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives.

Gibbs says the planning committee selected Norris for her reporting on race and discrimination, and for covering those issues in a more personal way in her book “Grace of Silence.” “The committee thinks she is an amazing commentator and journalist; her book is very much linked to themes of the symposium,” Gibbs says.

“Initiated by students, this is the university’s 26th observance of the life and contributions of Dr. King and it’s something that we are very proud of,” says John Matlock, associate vice provost and director of the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives. “As we consider all the social, political and economic changes that are occurring throughout the world, it’s apparent that the spirit of Dr. King’s activism is still relevant. These changes have been led by activists who have employed traditional and creative methods of activism, such as the use of technology and social media. Our young adults have certainly had a significant impact.”

Some other key MLK Symposium events scheduled to date include:

• The Business & Finance MLK Convocation — Many Voices: A Shared Dream! 1-3 p.m. Jan. 16 in Rackham Auditorium. It features a keynote presentation by Sarah Jones, Tony Award and Obie Award winning playwright, performer and poet. Jones in 2000 debuted “Women Can’t Wait,” a play about injustice and oppression. Her 2004 Broadway show “Bridge and Tunnel” explores injustice through characters derived from the author’s experience in a multicultural environment.

• The 14th Annual Children & Youth Event features a range of activities to celebrate King’s life and legacy including storytelling, guided discussions, skits, hip-hop poetry and musical performances from 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Jan. 16 in various locations. The program is sponsored by the School of Education, School of Social Work and OAMI.

• An Afternoon with Adrian Fenty, former Washington, D.C., mayor celebrated for his leadership in urban education reform, at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 16 in Blau Auditorium, Stephen M. Ross School of Business.

• Brian Smedley, vice president and director of the Health Policy Institute, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, with “Building Stronger Communities for Better Health: The Geography of Equity and Human Rights,” at 11:45 a.m. Jan. 16 in Dow Auditorium, Towsley Center. Smedley will discuss the effort to build a health equity movement, which mirrors King’s efforts to build a racial and economic justice movement.

• A screening of the film “Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football and The American Dream,” from 1-4 p.m. Jan. 16 in the Michigan Union Ballroom. The film follows a predominately Arab-American high school football team from Dearborn embracing its Islamic faith while seeking acceptance after the events of 9/11.

Other MLK Symposium events include:

• A Panel Discussion of the Michigan Sex Offender Registry coordinated by The Prison Creative Arts Project from 1-3 p.m. Jan. 16 in the Pendleton Room, Michigan Union.

• A Round Table Discussion — Wellness and Social Justice: Community Self-Definition of Emotional Well-being and Resiliency, at 2 p.m. Jan. 16 in the Michigan Student Assembly Chambers, Michigan Union.

• A panel presentation Dr. King’s Vision for Economic Justice: Focus on Detroit, at 3 p.m. Jan. 16 in Hutchins Hall, Law School.

• The Rev. Gregory Boyle, founder and CEO, Homeboy Industries, with “Innovative ‘Jobs not Jails’” with Inner-city Youth at 7 p.m. Jan. 19 in Blau Auditorium, Ross School.

• A Step Afrika Dance Performance from 7:30-9 p.m. Jan. 19 in the Lydia Mendelssohn Theater.

Gibbs says that working on the symposium is an inspiring experience for planners and volunteers. “People on the planning committee and in the OAMI office have amazing ideas and want to engage in positive change. Working with them is refreshing — it’s a constant reminder that there are people who are committed to community activism in various ways,” she says.

UM-Dearborn events include the MLK Day of Service Jan. 16, a Noon Day Observance Jan. 17 at the University Center, Conversation on Race with Roland Martin at 2 p.m. Jan. 18 at Kochoff Hall, and the Student Organization Leaders in Development Lite Student Leadership Conference from noon-5 p.m. at Fairlane Center North.

UM-Flint events include the Detroit Civil Rights Trilogy films and discussion at 6 p.m. Jan. 10 in the Loving Cultural Center, University Center; the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service Jan. 16 at locations throughout Flint and Genesee County; and a Volunteer Breakfast for those participating in the Day of Service from 7-9 a.m. Jan. 16 in the Michigan Rooms, University Center.

Hundreds of students from various high schools in southeast Michigan and Chicago also will participate in various MLK Day related activities.

For additional information on MLK Day activities, contact Gibbs or Helaire at 734-936-1055, or go to the symposium website:



Jonathan Larson, student organizations supervisor, on volunteering: “I may not be able to give money but I can give sweat equity or my time.”


Stile Antico, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church

View Events
Submit Events