Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Monday, January 9, 2012

NPR journalist, award-winning playwright among MLK Symposium presenters

The 26th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium this month — its theme, "Building on the Past to a New Generation of Activism" — will feature a range of speakers and programs to celebrate King's life and legacy.

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


More information

• For additional details on MLK Symposium events, contact Theda Gibbs at 734-936-1055 or

• Go to for the latest updated calendar of events.

An award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience, Norris has reported extensively on education, inner city issues, the nation's drug problem and poverty. In 2010 Norris released her first book, "The Grace of Silence: A Memoir." It examines how America talks about race since Barack Obama's presidential election, and explores her own family's racial legacy.

Norris also will be the guest host at a luncheon with U-M students following her presentation. Students will have the opportunity to explore various national and international issues with her.

Other prominent presenters include playwright Sarah Jones, the Business & Finance MLK Convocation keynote speaker, with "Many Voices: A Shared Dream!" from 1-3 p.m. Jan. 16 in Rackham Auditorium.

The Tony Award- and Obie Award-winning playwright, performer and poet in 2000 debuted the play "Women Can't Wait," about injustice and oppression. Her 2004 Broadway show "Bridge and Tunnel" explores injustice through characters in a multicultural environment.

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

The annual series of lectures and other activities to honor the civil rights leader, initiated by students and guided by the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives (OAMI) and the MLK Symposium Planning Committee, is known as one of the most prominent observances nationally of King's life and legacy.

Some other key MLK Symposium events scheduled to date include:

• UNROOTED: Repairing the Divides Among Scholars and Activists, 4-6 p.m. Jan. 11, West Conference Room, Rackham Graduate School. R. L'Heureux Lewis, assistant professor of sociology and black studies, City College of New York, and commentator in media outlets including NPR and the Detroit Free Press, will present a talk. It is followed by a program in which participants will seek strategies for seeking social justice. It is sponsored by Rackham Graduate School in conjunction with the Students of Color of Rackham.

• The 14th Annual Children & Youth Event. It 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• Fighting Obstacles Knowing Ultimate Success (F.O.K.U.S.) Presents Michigan's Second Annual Beat Battle, noon-midnight Jan. 20, Michigan Union Ballroom. The purpose is to produce a platform for individuals to explore the way musical genres have interacted and influenced one another historically to create the music of today.

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.