The University Record, December 13, 1999

Henry Gates to deliver MLK Memorial Lecture

By Jane R. Elgass

Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for Afro-American Research and the W.E.B. DuBois Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University, will be the keynote speaker for the University’s commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.

Gates will deliver the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Lecture, “Shattering Barriers and Transcending Borders,” this year’s theme, at 10 a.m. Jan. 17 in Hill Auditorium.

Described as one of the most notable intellectuals in the country, Gates received a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award when he was a 30-year-old junior faculty member at Yale University, and was granted tenure at Cornell University at age 33.

At Harvard, Gates revived an African American studies department, which, by many accounts, had been allowed to languish for 20 years.

Gates also has achieved prominence outside academe as the author of Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man; Colored People: A Memoir; Loose Canons: Notes on the Culture Wars; The Signifying Monkey: Towards a Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism; and Figures in Black: Words, Signs and the Radical Self.

Most recently, Gates was the driving force behind the creation of “Encarta Africana,” a comprehensive multimedia history of Africa and its diaspora in the Americas, Asia and Europe. “Encarta Africana” presents an interactive timeline, taking audiences from historical texts to virtual tours, to music samples, to art galleries. It also includes commentary from prominent contemporary figures.

“The University seeks to continually affirm its commitment to a multicultural environment,” notes Lester P. Monts, associate provost and professor of music. “Our ultimate goal is to sustain diversity as an important part of intellectual life at the University. The visit of Dr. Henry Louis Gates as this year’s Memorial Lecturer makes a significant contribution to that objective.”

Monts adds also that “the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium provides an opportunity to recall and contemplate the human principles that Dr. King espoused, and an opportunity for campus units to come together as a genuine community.”

Symposium events this year have been developed around four topics:

  • “Images of Violence and Hate in Society.”

  • “Redefining Leadership and Activism in the 21st Century.”

  • “Where Do We Go from Here? Response and Advancement of Diversity in an Age of Attack on Affirmative Action.”

  • “Hip-Hop as Cultural Expression and Social Movement.”

    Other events that have been developed by the Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium Committee, headed by Damon Williams of the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives, include:

  • “From the People to the Stage to the Academy and Back,” panel discussion with William Perkins, Kyra Gaunt, Oliver Wang and Mos-Def, 4 p.m. Jan. 14, Michigan League Ballroom.

    The panel includes a diverse group of scholars, artists and commentators from a broad range of backgrounds. They will present their perspectives on a range of issues dealing with the growth, culture and expression of hip-hop music in contemporary society. They will specifically examine the expansion of hip-hop as a global phenomenon and its often-confusing roots of misogyny and social movement. The panel is co-sponsored by the Hip-Hop Collective.

  • “Radical Revolutionaries: Different Goals Similar Visions,” panel discussion with Barbara Ransby, Carolos Munoz, John Sinclair, La Nada Boyer and Geronimo Pratt, 6 p.m. Jan. 24, Michigan Union Ballroom.

    Ransby is professor of African American studies at the University of Illinois and was heavily involved in the United Coalition Against Racism at the U-M in the 1980s. Munoz founded the first Mexican American studies department in the nation, at California State University in Los Angeles, and is the author of numerous books and articles on the Chicano movement. Sinclair founded the White Panther Party and was an active member of the counter-culture revolution of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Boyer was a student at the University of California, Berkeley, in the 1960s and was instrumental in the organization and takeover of Alcatraz Island by Native American activists. Pratt, the California leader of the Black Panthers, was unjustly accused of murder and imprisoned more than 25 years. He was freed in 1997. Co-sponsored by the Program in American Culture, Native American Student Association and Latino Task Force.

  • “Reflections on Martin Luther King Jr. and Equal Rights,” Carole Simpson, 1:30 p.m. Jan. 17, Hale Auditorium.

    A vocal supporter of social justice issues, Simpson is the anchor of “World News Sunday” and an Emmy Award-winning senior correspondent for ABC News. Sponsored by the Office of the Dean, Business School.

  • Take 6 concert, 8 p.m. Jan. 17, Hill Auditorium.

    Take 6’s a cappella singing has had an unparalleled influence on modern pop music. Its spiritual foundation and richly layered, uniquely fashioned harmonies, along with the group’s ministering, urban contemporary gospel groove, have garnered Take 6 seven Grammy Awards, five Doves (gospel music awards) and Best Jazz Vocal Group honors for four consecutive years from Downbeat Magazine.

    Sponsored by the University Musical Society, Butzel Long, WDET, WEMU and Republic Bank. For tickets, call 764-2538 or (800) 221-1229 or send e-mail to

  • “The View: Youth, Leadership and Diversity at the Millennium,” conversations with student leaders, hosted by Lisa Ling, 6 p.m. Jan. 28, Rackham Auditorium.

    Ling, of ABC’s “The View,” will host a talk-show-format discussion with student leaders. Featured will be Danny Seo, who at age 12 founded Earth 2000, an environmental action organization that has 20,000 members worldwide; Mitzi Tolinu, the reigning Ms. Indian World and a national spokesperson on issues of Native American culture and youth leadership; and Ayinde Baptiste, who was catapulted into the international spotlight in 1995 as the youth spokesperson for the Million Man March. U-M student leaders also will participate in the program.

    Co-sponsored by the United Asian American Organization, African American Programming Task Force and Native American Student Association.

    A listing of all Martin Luther King commemoration activities will be published in the Jan. 10 issue of the Record. Information also is on the Web at