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Lehigh to honor life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King

Anthony Monteiro will deliver an address about Dr. King Jan. 21.

Lehigh University will honor the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through a series of programs and events that bring the slain civil rights leader’s teachings to life.

The university-wide celebration is being organized by Lehigh’s Martin Luther King Jr. Planning Committee, which is charged by the Provost’s Office and is comprised of faculty, staff and students and represents Lehigh’s four colleges.

“In addition to drawing the necessary attention to Dr. King’s accomplishments, we are trying to engage people from across the university in careful reflection of his lasting impact,” says Alta Thornton, director of Multicultural Affairs and chair of the MLK Jr. Committee.

“What Dr. King stood for were principles of peace, social justice, and sense that there is a higher purpose to our existence. These are principles everyone can connect to, and goals that are worthy of everyone’s attention.”

John McKnight, assistant director of Multicultural Affairs, adds that the 2008 King celebration will be the most extensive in the university’s history.

“I’m really pleased that we were able to work with the committee to plan a roster of events with very broad appeal, and that we had representation and support from all of the colleges and the Dean of Students office in doing that,” McKnight says. “It’s a big step forward in making the King celebration not only more visible, but more accessible for everyone.”

The committee members have planned a series of events that will take place over the last two weeks of the month of January, culminating in a keynote address by revered educator, author and activist Jonathan Kozol at 7 p.m. Wednesday, January 30 in Packard Auditorium.

MLK events will include exhibits of speeches in public areas throughout campus the week of January 21, as well as the following:

- The fourth annual interfaith breakfast, Tuesday, January 22, 8:30 a.m., Johnson Hall.

- A memorial convocation that will reaffirm the human ideals of freedom and justice at 4:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 21 in Packard Auditorium. Anthony Monteiro, Ph.D., Distinguished Lecturer in African-American Studies at Temple University, will deliver the keynote address, followed by a featured performance by Dwana Adiaha Smallwood, principal dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre who is recognized as one of the best modern dancers of our time. At the convocation, several faculty, staff, students and community members will be honored with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for Dedication and Commitment to Service.

- A master dance workshop from 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22 at the Northampton Community College’s Fowler Family South Side Center, 511 E. Third St., led by dancer Dwana Adiaha Smallwood.

- A public lecture by political activist and author Ewuare X. Osayande at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23, in Maginnes 102 titled “Confronting American Terrorism: The Movement for Social Justice Forty Years after King.” The talk will focus on the upsurge of hate crimes in recent national news and question the notion of racial justice in the United States.

- Two workshops titled “Resisting Racism” on Thursday, Jan. 24 in the Lamberton Great Room, which will also be led by Osayande. A session for faculty and staff is slated from noon to 4 p.m., and a student session is scheduled from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. The workshop is expected to address the historic formation, development and practice of race as an institutional reality, according to Yaba Blay, academic director of the Joint Multicultural Program and affiliate faculty member in Africana Studies/Women’s Studies.


Addressing inequality

Jonathan Kozol will explore King’s adherence to the principle of equality by addressing disparities in the American public education system.

Kozol, an award-winning writer of several non-fiction books that include “Amazing Grace,” “Rachel and her Children” and “Death at an Early Age,” graduated from Harvard University in the early 1960s, and began teaching in low-income, urban neighborhoods. It was through those experiences that Kozol became convinced of persistent, crushing inequalities in education. His accounting of those experiences led to a career of investigating and writing about the poor, disenfranchised and sometimes invisible members of society.

Kozol’s talk will explore King’s adherence to the principle of equality by addressing disparities in the American public education system. The selection of Kozol as the keynote speaker “reminds us that for all that has happened since King's day, injustice and suffering are still with us,” according to Lloyd Steffen, university chaplain and professor of religion studies.

Says Steffen: “Racial and economic segregation are as much a part of our public schools as they were in King's day. We still resort to violence to address conflicts and resolve problems, and poverty is still our worst societal ill. King's vision—and his values—seem to be in short supply today, but that is the challenge: to connect that vision of justice to our time and to our problems.”

For dates and times for all events and for information on how to be involved in the university’s celebration of King’s work, go online.

In addition to Thornton, McKnight, Steffen and Blay, members of the MLK Committee include William Scott, professor of history and director of Lehigh’s Africana Studies program; Judy Lasker, professor of sociology and chair of the department; Seth Moglen, associate professor of English and interim director of the Humanities Center; Carolina Hernandez, director of Lehigh’s Community Service Office; Nelson Tansu, assistant professor, Center for Optical Technologies; MJ Bishop, associate professor of education and human services; K. Sivakumar, professor of marketing and chair of the department; Ayanna Wilcher, assistant director of career counseling and multicultural programming in Career Services; and Jill Franco, graduate student in the department of education and human services.

--Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Monday, January 07, 2008

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