Symposium speakers continue King's dream
Activists Julian Bond, Julie Chavez Rodriguez and Pearl Cleage will head key events at the 23rd annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium, invigorated by the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, organizers say.
"You can't ignore the historic moment," says John Matlock, associate vice-provost and director of the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives (OAMI). "The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium will begin the day before the inauguration so it's going to be something very special, when you consider how people of that era along with Dr. King were fighting for voting rights. I am extremely pleased that our youth really got involved people, in some cases, gave their lives for them to have this opportunity."
"I do think it will be an energizer and something a lot of people will talk about during the symposium," says Theda Gibbs, coordinator for the MLK Symposium, which opens Jan. 19 at locations around campus. OAMI-sponsored MLK Symposium events continue through Jan. 30, while University-sponsored events continue until April.
The MLK Symposium theme is "A Dreamer, But Not the Only One." It was selected by the 40-member MLK Symposium Planning Committee, which assists in organizing OAMI-sponsored events. "The committee tries to think of a theme that will have a positive and empowering message," Gibbs says.
"We wanted to highlight the importance of dreaming and becoming activists for positive change like Dr. King did as well as those that fought with him, and those who continue to fight for civil rights and social justice," she says.
The MLK Symposium Planning Committee continues to be impressed with the ongoing commitment of the campus community to recognizing and keeping King's principles, Matlock says. "We celebrate Dr. King's life in many different settings and offer something for everyone through our annual recognition of his contributions."
Bond's keynote address is scheduled for 10 a.m. Jan. 19 at Hill Auditorium. He has served since 1998 as chairman of the board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the oldest and largest civil rights organization in the United States. In 2002 Bond received the prestigious National Freedom Award.
Elected in 1965 to the Georgia House of Representatives, Bond was prevented from taking his seat by members who objected to his opposition to the Vietnam War. He eventually was seated, following a unanimous decision of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Bond was co-chair of a challenge delegation from Georgia to the 1968 Democratic Convention. The challengers were successful in unseating Georgia's regular Democrats, and Bond was nominated for vice president but had to decline because he was too young. Now a veteran of more than 20 years service in the Georgia General Assembly, a university professor and writer, Bond also has narrated the Academy Award-winning "A Time For Justice" and the prize-winning and critically acclaimed series "Eyes On The Prize."
While Bond, Chavez Rodriguez and Cleage work in diverse fields, all are civil rights and social justice activists.
Julie Chavez Rodriguez
Chavez Rodriguez, human rights activist and granddaughter of civil and labor rights activist Cesar Chavez, will present the MLK Symposium opening lecture at 4 p.m. Jan. 15 in the Michigan League Vandenberg Room. She is programs director for the Cesar E. Chavez Foundation and heads the National Youth Leadership Initiative, which addresses academic and civic engagement among youth.
In California Chavez Rodriguez also helped found the Cesar Chavez Day of Service and Learning, and a Web-based K-12 curriculum on the life and work of Cesar Chavez. The human rights activist and motivational speaker will present a personal perspective on her grandfather's mission in establishing the United Farm Workers.
Writer Cleage is scheduled to deliver the MLK Symposium closing lecture at 1 p.m. Jan. 30 in the Michigan Union Pendleton Room.
Cleage draws on her experiences as an activist for AIDS and women's rights, and she cites the rhythms of black life as her muse. Her first novel, "What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day," was an Oprah Book Club selection in 1998 and appeared on the New York Times best-seller list for nine weeks.
Cleage grew up in Detroit, majored in playwriting and dramatic literature at Howard University in Washington, D.C., earned a bachelor's degree in drama from Spelman College in Atlanta, and later joined the Spelman faculty as a writer and playwright in residence and as a creative director.
In addition to events that focus on historical authenticity and the civil rights movement of the 1960s, MLK Symposium programs highlight historical and contemporary issues of race, class, social justice, diversity and societal change.