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Updated 2:00 PM January 13, 2004
 

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'Still Separate? Still Unequal?'
MLK Symposium will explore society 50 years after Brown



Fresh off a year when U-M was at the epicenter of the affirmative action debate and fostered national civil rights discussion in a Supreme Court defense of its admissions policies, the University will sustain that focus with its annual event honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Along with serving as the University's 17th annual commemoration of the civil rights activist, this year's symposium also will kick off U-M's theme semester devoted to the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.

Harvard law professor Lani Guinier will deliver the 2004 MLK Symposium keynote address at 10 a.m. Jan. 19 at Hill Auditorium. Photo courtesy Keppler Associates.

"Still Separate? Still Unequal? Brown Versus Board of Education, 50 Years Later ." is the theme for the 2004 symposium.

A calendar of events provided by the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives (OAMI) is included on pages 11-15 of this issue. An updated list of MLK Symposium events can be found at http://www.mlksymposium.umich.edu.

"This year, the University has a special reason to be proud of its commitment to diversity, and to celebrate the legacy of Dr. King," President Mary Sue Coleman says. "As we observe this event, we recognize that although we have made great progress since 1954, we still have a great deal of work to accomplish in order to realize the dream of Dr. King."

The theme statement for the symposium cites the following facts:

* Students of color are concentrated in central city schools that often match or exceed the levels of segregation prior to the 1954 Brown decision

* A white male born in 2000 has a life expectancy of approximately 74 years. A Black male, born the same year, has a life expectancy of approximately 69 years

* The gap in home ownership between whites and people of color has remained nearly the same for 40 years

* Higher education enrollment and completion rates are at an all-time high for all racial and ethnic groups in the United States, but enrollment and completion rates still are not equal between all groups.

"The issues of educational access and equality are just as appropriate today as they were 50 years ago," says John Matlock, associate vice provost and OAMI director. "It is a reminder to our young people of how far we have come as a nation, but also a reminder of how much further we have to go. We are not there yet."

More than a month of events begin today (Jan. 12) with "A Conversation with the Brown Sisters." Linda Brown Thompson and Cheryl Brown Henderson, daughters of the Rev. Oliver Brown—the plaintiff in Brown v. Board—will discuss their experiences at 6 p.m. and take questions from the audience at Rackham Auditorium.

Professor Lani Guinier of Harvard Law School will deliver the MLK Symposium keynote address at 10 a.m. Jan. 19 in Hill Auditorium. Guinier was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1993 to head the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, but her name was withdrawn without a confirmation hearing.

Guinier, the first Black woman appointed to a tenured professorship at Harvard Law, will speak about "Becoming Racially Literate: Reclaiming the Public Mission of Higher Education."

The busiest day of the MLK Symposium (Jan. 19) continues at 2 p.m. with a lecture by Harvard law professor Christopher Edley Jr. in the Michigan Union Ballroom. Edley will discuss "50 Years Since Brown v. Board of Education."

"[The planning committee] felt the 1954 decision was another chapter in a long battle for equality; in this case, towards educational equality," says Silvia Carranza, symposium coordinator and OAMI program associate. "I hope this year's event will influence people to continually question what may seem unfair and take initiative on making changes that benefit the greater community."

The exhibit "Views and Voices: U-M's Case for Diversity" opens Jan. 13 at the Media Union Gallery on North Campus and continues through Jan. 30. It resumes Feb. 9-20. The exhibit will examine the University's role in the national debate about diversity and the Supreme Court decisions upholding the principle in college admissions.

Jazz performers Dianne Reeves, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Regina Carter highlight the "Jazz Divas Summit" at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 19 in Hill. Tickets range from $10-44 and are available at http://www.ums.org or (734) 764-2538.

Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO, will be featured in the symposium's speaker series at 6 p.m. Jan. 21 in the Anderson Room of the Michigan Union. Rodriguez (MSW 1973) will discuss "Labor and Social Change: Moving from the Past to Visions of the Future."

Native American activist, poet and artist John Trudell will deliver the closing lecture at 6 p.m. Jan. 26 at the Michigan Union's Pendleton Room. Symposium events will continue through Feb. 12.

"It is quite fitting that the University of Michigan has begun its semester-long commemoration of the Brown decision on the national holiday honoring Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.," says Lester Monts, senior vice provost for academic affairs and senior counselor to the president for the arts, diversity and undergraduate affairs. "Dr. King firmly believed providing quality education to all would lead the nation toward the ideals of equality and justice.

"It is a belief we are still trying to make a reality."

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