The University Record, January 11, 1999

MLK commemoration events begin this week

Editor's note: The Record MLK Calendar is available by clicking here.

By Jane R. Elgass

The University’s first pan-ethnic cultural show. Presentations by a number of vocal and theater ensembles. A keynote address by author and nationally acclaimed poet Nikki Giovanni. A panel discussion on urban education. Several performances of “The Gospel at Colonus.” An afternoon of community service activities involving 300 volunteers. Participatory story-telling programs for children. A day-long invitational program for high school students involving popular Detroit radio disc jockey John Mason of WJLB’s Mason and Company. A number of lectures, dialogues and workshops.

These are among the events that are part of this year’s three-week commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.

“We are very proud of the tremendous participation that we have received from academic and non-academic units and our student organizations,” notes John Matlock, assistant provost and director, Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives.

“There are some 75 activities, and many of those are collaborations between various units around the campus. Our students have done an outstanding job in helping plan events and designing the Symposium Web site, poster and program booklet. I am excited that, through the efforts of so many individuals, the commemoration of Dr. King’s life still has significant meaning,” Matlock adds.

MLK Symposium Program Coordinator Damon Williams also is enthused. “The MLK celebration at the U-M is one-of-a-kind throughout the higher education community and speaks volumes about the University’s commitment to diversity and equity. The human, financial and emotional resources committed to the Symposium by students, faculty and units captures the spirit of good will and struggle that was embodied by Dr. King. Although much work remains undone at the University and across the country, the energy that is displayed during the King holiday suggests that we are headed in the right direction, even if, at times, we are not moving at the speed one might desire.

“Indeed,” Williams adds, “I hope that we can transfer some of the MLK Symposium energy to each day, week and month as we move into increasingly turbulent times at the U-M and in society at large.”

“The University continues to lead the nation by sponsoring one of the largest and most comprehensive campus commemorations of King,” notes Lester P. Monts, associate provost for academic affairs.

“The symposium theme, ‘On the Verge of a New Millennium . . . STAND!’ is a call for renewed effort against poverty, deprivation and ignorance—conditions in American life that we need not take into the next millennium,” Monts says. “The 20th century is marked by major discoveries in medicine, space exploration and information technology—all of which contribute to our higher standard of life. In these last 100 years, however, we also have observed very slow progress on issues that continue to divide the nation and the world along the lines of race, ethnicity and gender.

“Dr. King urged us to not be content with the past, but to continue to set our vision on creating a nation that offers everyone an equal opportunity to fully realize their potential, and to contribute their talents to establishing a fair and equitable society,” Monts says. “As the beneficiaries of Dr. King’s work and wisdom, we must heed this call and put our unique abilities to work and stand to meet the challenges of the new millennium.”

“Encompass,” the U-M’s first pan-ethnic cultural show, will showcase the campus’s diversity through music, dance, theater and other artistic exhibitions, including 58 Greene, Persian Student Association, Kol Hakavod and Sinaboro: Korean Drum Performance Troupe. Tickets to the 8 p.m. Jan. 16 show at the Michigan Theater are $5.50 and $7.50 at the Michigan Union Ticket Office.

Giovanni, who will deliver the MLK Symposium Memorial Lecture at 10 a.m. Jan. 18 in Hill Auditorium, prides herself on being “a Black American, a mother, a professor of English.”

Despite the dramatic changes that have occurred in American society since she came out of the Black Arts Movement, Giovanni remains committed to the fight for civil rights and equality in education. She maintains her place as a strong voice of the Black community through her poetry and prose.

In her lectures, she is known for speaking with great humor on her life and the creativity in everything we do, with a focus on the individual, particularly on the power one has to make a difference in oneself and therefore in the life of others.

“Do something with your life!” Giovanni once told an MIT audience. “You will find that what you have coveted is not worth coveting. There is a limit to what material things can do.”

• In its Michigan premiere, the agony of Greek tragedy weds the ecstasy of American gospel music in the musical theater production of “The Gospel at Colonus.” The show recreates the Greek myth about the fallen, blind King Oedipus searching for salvation after discovering that he has killed his father and married his mother. This OBIE-winning adaptation by Lee Breuer celebrates the 2,400-year-old myth of Oedipus’ redemption with a rousing blues and gospel score featuring many members of the original Broadway cast.

The Gospel at Colonus will be presented at the Power Center at 8 p.m. Jan. 15, 16, 18; at 2 p.m. Jan. 16; and at 3 p.m. Jan. 17. Tickets, $34, $28, $20 and $16, are available at the University Musical Society (UMS), 764-2538 or (800) 221-1229.

• “The Blackness Blues—Time to Change the Tune (A Sister’s Story),” by Dominique Morisseau, is written in the style of a choreopoem, displaying the uniqueness of Black culture in America. It will be presented at 7 p.m. Jan. 14 and 16, and 8 p.m. Jan. 15 in the Arena Theatre, Frieze Building.

• “Variations,” a choral and dramatic ensemble, will perform a collection of Negro spirituals during “Stand: Lift Every Voice and Sing,” 1–3 p.m. Jan. 18 in Rackham Amphitheater.

• “Ulali,” who will perform at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 20 in Mendelssohn Theatre, is an a capella trio of Native American women who combine music from the Apache, Mayan and Tuscaroran tribes as well as shards of blues and gospel. Ulali shows its multiracial roots bringing together Native American and African identities as the members sing call-and-response work songs, tattle-songs, sacred chants and wails.

• “Detroit Storyliving” will bring role-play and story-telling to the Koessler Room, Michigan League, 1–3 p.m. and 4–5:30 p.m. Jan. 16 and 18. Space is limited to 40 people per session. For information, call 936-1055.

“Right of the People” explores the Nashville student lunch counter sit-ins of 1960. African American students launched a campaign for the right to be served at the lunch counters of department stores where they shopped.

“Underground Railroad” provides a perspective on Michigan’s Underground Railroad. As many as 50,000 fugitives from slavery may have followed the freedom trails on the long journey from the South through Michigan, escaping to freedom in Canada.

• “Acting on the Dream,” a community service project, will be held 1–6 p.m. Jan. 18, starting from Room 1600, Chemistry Building. All U-M students, faculty and staff are eligible to participate. There will be a brief introductory session before participants are taken to various community-based agencies in the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti area. For information, call 936-2437 or send e-mail to

• “Urban Education: Issues and Implications” will be the focus of a panel discussion among a diverse group of educators from a broad range of backgrounds at 2:30 p.m. Jan. 18 in Whitney Auditorium, School of Education.

Panelists includes Gloria Landson-Billings, University of Wisconsin School of Education; Kris Gutierrez, University of California, Los Angeles, School of Education; Harvey Dorrah, Central Michigan University; and Ray Johnson, principal, Paul Robeson Academy, Detroit. Arnetha Ball, associate professor of education, will moderate.

• “Moving Beyond the Rhetoric: Affirmative Action and Education” will be the focus of a lecture by Ted Shaw and a panel discussion with students at 6 p.m. Jan. 25 in Rackham Amphitheater.

Shaw, associate director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and a former U-M Law School faculty member, is one of the nation’s leading spokespersons on affirmative action issues.

1999 MLK Symposium Planning Committee

Andrew Adams III, Native American Student Association; Donna Ainsworth, Women’s Studies Program; David Artis, School of Public Health; April Bayles, Athletic Department; Diego Bernal, La Vox Mexicana; D. Susan Bitzer, College of Engineering; Jujuan Buford, Black Student Union; David Carter, All Us: A LGBT People of Color Collective; Neftara Clark, Black Student Union; Patricia Coleman-Burns, School of Nursing; Mary Craig, School of Music;

Monita Dandridge, Intergroup Relations, Conflict and Community; Martys Deen, Center for Research on Learning and Teaching; Diana Derige, Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives (OAMI); Mitzi Dorbu, Black Volunteer Network; Lydia Eutsey, College of Engineering; Ayesha Hardison, James Weldon Johnson Emergency Loan Fund; Julian Heilig, School of Education; Michele Henry, Alumni Association; Benjamin Johnson, University Musical Society; Kenneth Jones, OAMI;

Jennifer Koenn, OAMI; Andrea Korthase, OAMI; John Matlock, OAMI; Henry Meares, School of Education; Joyce Mitchell, Medical School; Shanon Muir, Caribbean People’s Association; Phillina Mullin, Mixed Initiatives; Khoa Nguyen, OAMI; Kajal Parikh, Project SERVE; Joontae Park, United Asian American Organizations; Jesse Perez, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Atzlan;

Jeanne Raisler, School of Nursing; Mohammad Rahman, Muslim Student Association; Charles Ransom, University Library; Veronica Sanchez, Alianza; Thomas Schneider, Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs; Timothy Slottow, Office of the Chief Financial Officer; Deborah Solowczuk, School of Natural Resources and Environment; Gwendolyn Tandy, University Housing; Tiffany Tomassi, Mixed Initiative; Bonita Tucker, Association of Black Professionals, Administrators, Faculty and Staff; Damon Williams, MLK Symposium program coordinator; Tara Young, Business School.

Members of the fall 1998 Graphic Design 4 class—Elissa Bowers, Ravi Devnani, Gabrielle DiClemente, Jonathan Garnett and Sara Martin—did the design work for the Symposium posters, program brochure and Web page, under the direction of Dennis Miller, assistant professor of graphic design.

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